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Thursday, 28 May 2009
Page: 4780

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (4:03 PM) —by leave—I wish to update the House on developments following North Korea’s underground nuclear test and its further threats and provocations. Though verification work is proceeding, Australia and the international community have little doubt that a nuclear test occurred on 25 May. Australia remains very gravely concerned by this development and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s subsequent missile tests, which have the potential to directly affect Australia’s national security. I repeat the Australian government’s view that this was an unacceptable, provocative and destabilising act by North Korea.

I note with concern reports that North Korea has issued statements to the effect that, following the Republic of Korea’s accession to the Proliferation Security Initiative, North Korea would ‘no longer be bound’ by the 1953 Korean War ‘Armistice Agreement’. While Australia does not propose to respond to every statement by North Korea, no matter how threatening or provocative, this statement is of course completely unjustified and unjustifiable on North Korea’s part. These statements and North Korea’s threats of military action do nothing to enhance its security and leave it increasingly isolated. Any act of aggression by North Korea would of course be a breach of the United Nations Charter.

Australia welcomes the Republic of Korea’s decision on 26 May to become a full member of the Proliferation Security Initiative, now composed of more than 90 nations. And Australia strongly supports the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea in working with the international community to respond to this major security threat. Australia reiterates its strong condemnation of North Korea’s actions, unanimously condemned by the United Nations Security Council. North Korea’s nuclear test is a clear breach of United Nations Security Council resolution 1718. It is in flagrant disregard of North Korea’s international obligations.

As I said to the House on Monday, there is only one option for North Korea: it should immediately desist from all of these provocative acts; it should immediately comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 1718; and it should immediately resume the six-party talks. Both the Prime Minister and I are consulting our counterparts on the international response. The Prime Minister has spoken to his Japanese and Republic of Korea counterparts, as well as to the United Nations Secretary-General.

I spoke on 26 May to United States Secretary of State Clinton to express Australia’s resolve to work with the United States to get North Korea to denuclearise and resume the six-party talks. I have also spoken to my South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Yu, and I am scheduled to speak to Japan’s Foreign Minister Nakasone tomorrow. Australia will also continue to work with China and others to send a united message to North Korea over its provocative actions. At my instruction, Australia’s Mission to the United Nations is also working to encourage a strong new Security Council resolution with new and additional measures against North Korea. Work is proceeding at the United Nations and we expect a new resolution to emerge in the near future.

Australia already has strong sanctions in place against North Korea, following North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test. Australia has fully implemented the sanctions under UN Security Council resolution 1718. The sanction regime requires:

  • a ban on the supply to, and procurement from, North Korea of certain military items and associated training, advice and services;
  • a ban on specified goods and related services with an application to the development of weapons of mass destruction and the means for their delivery; and
  • a ban on the supply to North Korea of luxury goods.

In addition to fully implementing these sanctions, Australia has a visa ban that applies to North Korean nationals. North Korean flagged ships are banned from entering Australia and bilateral aid is suspended. Given the suffering of the North Korean people, Australia continues to provide emergency humanitarian aid through United Nations agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

North Korea’s recent actions—its nuclear test, further missile tests and threatening language—pose a very serious threat to regional and world security. Its actions have breached international norms of behaviour. To ignore North Korea’s behaviour would undermine the credibility of the United Nations. It would send the wrong signal to others about the international community’s steadfast commitment to preventing the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The international community has no option but to respond very firmly to North Korea’s actions. That is why Australia is calling for new, targeted sanctions to be imposed on North Korea and for the United Nations Security Council to work to ensure that United Nations members implement new sanctions together with full implementation of previous sanctions that have been imposed on North Korea, including through resolution 1718.

North Korea is a particularly complex international security problem. It is a closed society, one seemingly impervious to international community concerns or the desperate plight of its own people. We have, unfortunately, become accustomed to North Korea’s provocative, belligerent threats. The international community should not, of course, overreact. North Korea has engaged in this sort of brinkmanship before. It is in Australia and the international community’s interest to ensure that the door is left open for dialogue with North Korea. Australia is not starry-eyed about this, but the eventual resumption of dialogue is something we need to work towards. Australia will continue to support our key partners, including the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea, in their efforts to get North Korea back to the path of dialogue.

There is already a mechanism in place for dialogue with North Korea, a mechanism that is strongly supported by Australia and the international community. That mechanism, of course, is the six-party talks, involving the United States, China, Russia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and North Korea. This is the avenue for the North Korean regime to ensure its own security.

The only way to create better opportunities and to improve the lives of its starving population is by the regime in North Korea returning to conformity with United Nations Security Council resolutions, and by North Korea engaging in serious dialogue: North Korea needs to recommit to and implement the commitments towards denuclearisation that it has already made through the six-party talks. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are an increasing threat to regional security and represent an emerging threat to Australia’s national security. Australia is determined to play its part at the United Nations with its friends and partners to respond to this major international security threat.

I ask leave of the House to move a motion to enable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to speak for a period of seven minutes.

Leave granted.


That so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent Ms J Bishop speaking in reply to the ministerial statement for a period not exceeding 7 minutes.

Question agreed to.