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Australia's Role for Peace and Security in Northeast Asia:|
North Korea's Missiles, Nukes and WMD
AUSTRALIA - CONTEXT
- Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today on
Australia's approach to North Korea.
- In doing so, important to note from the outset that the approach
Australia takes to the Korean Peninsula is driven by many of the
same considerations that drive US policy and our policy
approaches are broadly consistent
- It is also true that Australia's approach is driven by specific
- The STRATEGIC context for us is straightforward
- The Asia Pacific region is home to the world's six largest armies
(China, the United States, Russia, India, North Korea and South
Korea) and, after the Middle East, the world's three most volatile
flashpoints - the Taiwan Straits, the Korean Peninsula and
- We want to use our influence, as part of broader international
efforts to help ease tensions in these places.
- The Korean Peninsula lies at a strategic cross roads between
China, Japan, the United States and Russia and its stability has
enormous implications for the wider East Asian region, including
- The consequences of a security breakdown on the Korean
Peninsula would be immense
- Immense not only for the immediate region of North East Asia
region, but also for Australia and the major powers.
- The strategic engagement of the United States in the Asia Pacific
is a key stabilising influence in our region. US engagement
underpins the stability and prosperity of the region and the US
presence on the Korean Peninsula is a critical component of that
wider regional engagement.
- Australia's four top trading partners - Japan, United States, China
and South Korea - would be directly affected by any security crisis
on the Korean Peninsula.
- In addition, Australia has long-standing non-proliferation
credentials. We are committed to finding a peaceful resolution to
the current tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
EVOLUTION OF AUSTRALIA'S POLICY ON NORTH KOREA
- In May 2000, Australia resumed diplomatic relations with North
Korea, after an interruption to relations of some 25 years.
- Our reason for resuming formal ties was motivated by the
Government's strong belief that dialogue and engagement would
help secure peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula
- Our engagement with the DPRK does not mean that we accept or
condone the policies of practices of the North
- Indeed, we believe that the ideology of the North and the
behaviour of its government, at home and abroad, are
abhorrent to many of the values cherished by Australians and
- The Australian Government's approach was guided by the idea
that engagement with the DPRK was better than further isolation
- Isolation and sanctions have little impact on the DPRK regime
because it does not care about the welfare of its people or
about the stigma of the regime being snubbed internationally
- It is a policy that seeks to strike a strong balance between
deterrence and dialogue.
- We also do not equate dialogue and engagement with
concessions - dialogue is an important part of diplomacy and our
aim is to do what we can to contribute to international efforts to
bring out the North - through encouragement, coaxing, cajoling or
whatever - into the international community.
- We believe that we must deal with the reality of the situation on
the Korean Peninsula
- In taking this step to re-establish diplomatic relations, the
Australian Government did not stand to gain much in a bilateral
sense - bilateral trade is negligible (indeed the North has
outstanding debt with Australia).
- The Government wanted to do what it could as part of
international efforts - principally by the major players, the
United States, Japan and South Korea - to ease tensions on
- In taking this step, we made clear to the North that we were
prepared to reward positive movement and good behaviour. By
the same token, we delivered firm messages on proliferation and
human rights and made clear from the outset that we would not
ignore negative movement by North Korea.
- Our Foreign Minister Mr Downer visited North Korea in October
- North Korea was permitted to establish an embassy in Canberra
- Our Ambassador in Beijing is accredited to North Korea.
- Australia has been a strong supporter of the US-DPRK Framework
Agreement and the work of the Korean Peninsula Energy
Development Organisation (KEDO). Australia is the largest single
non-executive contributor to KEDO- having provided $22 million to
- The Australian Government strongly and actively supports the
ROK's engagement policy with the DPRK. We consider it a
framework within which the North and the South could reconcile
their differences and cooperate more closely.
- And we supported, and continue to support dialogue. We were
pleased that North Korea, China and the United States have
started the process of getting dialogue on track in a multi-party
- And we are pleased that North-South Ministerial-level talks
Fast forward to now - Actions by North Korea
- North Korea has expelled IAEA inspectors. It has shut down
nuclear monitoring equipment.
- It has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty
- North Korea has reactivated its 5 Mwe nuclear plant at Yongbyon,
shut down since 1994.
- It may or may not have started reprocessing spent fuel rods to
extract weapons-grade plutonium
- It has a history of violating its armistice obligations and provoking
skirmishes with South Korean and US forces
- It has deployed hundreds of Scud and large numbers of no-dong
ballistic missiles, capable of striking targets throughout South
Korea, and almost all of Japan.
- In 1998, North Korea test-fired a more powerful rocket, the Tae-
po-dong 1, over northern Japan. And it has threatened to cease
its self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile flight testing.
- North Korea has confessed its nuclear ambitions and may or may
not already have a crude nuclear weapon, may have restarted
production and has threatened to export nuclear material and
- There are well founded suspicions that North Korea has explored
the possibility of developing chemical and biological weapons
- And there is clear evidence that North Korea has sold - and seeks
to sell - its missiles and missile technologies to countries and
regions of concern to us.
Current Australian approach
- North Korea's actions and rhetoric are raising tensions on the
- It risks undermining a global consensus to stop the spread of
weapons of mass destruction, and the regimes that are in place to
uphold and enforce those norms.
- The Australian Government's firm position is that it is up to North
Korea to verifiably and irreversibly dismantle is nuclear weapons
- After North Korea made its nuclear revelations to Assistant
Secretary of State Jim Kelly last October, an Australian delegation
went to Pyongyang to put Australia's concerns, and that of the
international community, to North Korea.
- We made clear to the North Koreans that they must
- Renounce their weapons of mass destruction ambitions
- Abandon recent moves to restart suspect nuclear facilities
- Reverse their decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty regime; and
- They must cooperate fully with the IAEA in complying with its
- These points were registered very firmly in over eleven hours of
meetings with North Korean officials and an 80 minute meeting
with the North Korean Foreign Minister Paek
- We reminded Pyongyang that the United States had made it clear
that it had no intention of invading North Korea (although all
options were on the table).
- We continue to use its Ambassador and Embassy in Canberra as
a channel to deliver firm messages and the Australian
Government's and international community's concerns about its
actions and intentions.
- The Australian Government has supported efforts by Washington,
Seoul and Tokyo to find a solution.
- We consult and coordinate regularly - most recently in discussions
between Prime Minister Howard and President Bush last weekend
- The Australian Government has taken a number of steps in
response to North Korea's recent actions and statements.
- Australia's firm support for the United States on Iraq was our
strongest message to North Korea about the need for it - North
Korea - to disarm.
- On 30 April this year, Prime Minister Howard made our position
clear. He said
- "In our [Australia's] view, if the world fails to deal once and for
all with the problem of Iraq and its possession of weapons of
mass destruction it will have given a green light to the further
proliferation of these weapons and it will undo 30 years of hard
international work, including by Australia, which has been
designed to enforce not only conventions on chemical weapons
but also the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty..... The world,
particularly our own region [the Asia Pacific] is rightly
concerned about North Korea. North Korea has blatantly
violated its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty and so far from the challenge of North Korea,
overshadowing the challenge of Iraq, it adds greater urgency
and relevance to Iraq. Because if the world cannot disarm Iraq
it has no hope of disciplining North Korea. .... These reasons
for our [Australia's] urgent commitment to the cause of
disarming Iraq must be seen against the background of the
different world in which we now all live."
- Australia's firm position and cooperation with the United States on
the war on terror comes from a fear that terrorist groups may
obtain nuclear weapons and material from irresponsible states that
possess these weapons and materials.
North Korea as a criminal state
- Another area of dialogue between Australia and the United States
relates to long-standing claims that there is official North Korean
involvement in illicit smuggling, particularly of narcotics.
- You may be aware that Australian authorities seized a vessel, the
Pongsu, about 35 nautical miles south-east of Newcastle (a little
north of Sydney) on 20 April this year.
- There were very heavy seas and the vessel had sought to escape
Australian authorities. Defence Special Operations Forces were
used in the operation because they were the best prepared for the
difficult circumstances of the task.
- The vessel is registered in Tuvalu and is owned by a North
- Law enforcement authorities seized 50 kilograms of heroin (with
an estimated street value of over AUD 70 million) in western
Victoria, which is believed to have been imported into Australia by
- 34 people, including the majority of North Korean crew have
been remanded in custody in Victoria
- one person found dead appears to have been connected to the
import of the heroin.
- The Prime Minister announced the seizure by reinforcing that the
action [quote] "sends a clear signal to international drug traffickers
that Australian authorities are determined to stop [the] illegal
import of drugs and will do whatever is necessary to ensure that
the people responsible face the full force of Australian law."
- Criminal investigation are underway and it is difficult to say much
more about the case for this reason.
- What I can say is that Australian officials have spoken formally to
the North Korean Embassy on a number of occasions in relation to
this incident and the Embassy is giving it full cooperation. Officials
from the North Korean company that owns the company have
been assisting law enforcement enquiries.
- It is difficult to assess whether there is any official North Korean
involvement but we have warned North Korea that the bilateral
relationship could be damaged should evidence emerge
implicating DPRK officials in the targeting of Australia as an
illegal narcotics destination.
- The North Korean Government has denied any official
- North Korean official media has since accused Australia and
the United States of engaging in false propaganda, expressing
surprise and regret at the Australian action.
Other bilateral responses
- The Australian Government has put our bilateral relationship with
North Korea on hold to underline our dissatisfaction with North
Korea and to encourage it to engage more constructively with the
- We have frozen plans to establish a diplomatic mission in
Pyongyang. We have no plans in place at this stage for our
Ambassador-designate to present credentials in Pyongyang.
- We have rejected requests by the North Korean embassy in
Canberra to increase the size of its diplomatic mission beyond its
current five-person limit. We have resisted requests to change our
position on travel and access limitations on North Korean embassy
staff in Australia.
- Australia's food aid and humanitarian assistance to North Korea
has totalled about AUD 39 million since 1996-97. It is channelled
through multilateral agencies.
- The Australian Government remains deeply concerned by the
terrible suffering experienced by the people in North Korea and we
have said we will continue to respond to requests for humanitarian
- In February this year, we contributed a further $3 million to the
UN World Food Program for North Korea.
- And we are continuing other forms of assistance, targeting
children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and the elderly. We
also continue to provide facilities (eg blankets and generators)
to North Korean hospitals.
- But we have suspended other technical assistance programs that
were established after we re-established diplomatic relations.
- For example, The Australian Centre for International
Agricultural Research was training North Koreans in soil and
pest management, crop production and biotechnology related
to rice production.
- The Australian National University was training North Koreans
in market economics
- We had helped DPRK statisticians so that the nutritional needs
of North Koreans can be identified.
- And we have made clear to the North that it cannot expect
further economic cooperation with us or with the rest of the
world if it chooses to continue down its nuclear path.
- The bottom line
- North Korea has made itself an outlaw state by withdrawing from
the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and, by its many words and
actions, flouting international conventions and custom.
- The Australian Government supports the United States' position
that means that all options are on the table for dealing with North
- The Australian Government believes firmly, and will work
steadfastly, for a diplomatic and peaceful settlement to this issue
- The answer to a settlement is in North Korea's hands - it must
verifiably and permanently dismantle its nuclear weapons
- It will take time.
- We have to ensure that North Korea does not proliferate in the
- We are consulting and working closely with the United States and
other allies and friends - in Japan, South Korea and elsewhere -
to find a political settlement if North Korea comes to its senses.
- To sum up, the Australian Government has taken an approach
that we believe protects and advances our national interest and
contributes to US and international efforts to bring peace and
stability to the Korean Peninsula.
- Our aim is to ensure that North Korea abandons its weapons of
mass destruction programs once and for all.
- It is a unique approach, blending firm messages and actions -
such as on the Pongsu case - with dialogue.
- We have expressed our preparedness to provide further
assistance and help if North Korea does the right thing.
- We have made clear that we will have no hesitation in responding
if North Korea does not.
- A central tenet of our approach is to consult closely with, assist
and coordinate our efforts with those of the United States, Japan
and South Korea
- These governments have expressed their appreciation for our
- The Australian Government remains hopeful - and is actively
supporting - diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean
- It is going to take sustained international dialogue and action
and much patience to deal with North Korea.
- We welcome the recent trilateral talks and commend China's
role in it and we hope that a second round of talks - ideally with
Japan and the ROK involved - can take place.
- We strongly encourage China to continue to play a constructive
role in the process of dialogue.
- We have strongly urged North Korea not to walk away from the
- And the Australian Government will continue to work actively to
contribute to efforts to bring about a peaceful and diplomatic
solution to the situation.
9 May 2003
Australian Embassy, Washington.
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This page last updated 5/28/2003 jdb