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Thursday, 2 June 1994
Page: 1205

Senator TEAGUE —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and follows his answer earlier today about North Korea's responsibilities to allow an IAEA inspection of its nuclear facilities. Was there a meeting on Tuesday between North Korean diplomats and the Australian Ambassador in Beijing, Mr Lightowler? Who initiated the meeting? What is the significance of the outcomes of this meeting? With regard to Russia and the meeting of the President of South Korea, Kim Young Sam, with President Yeltsin yesterday, what does the government expect to be the new initiatives that could come from that meeting? Finally, as the minister has referred to the IAEA responsibilities, how many days are left to allow inspection of the 8,000 rods if we are to include the historic matter as well as the forward looking matters?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As to the outcome of President Kim and President Yeltsin meeting yesterday, I have had no more substantial readout so far than I have seen on the public record, so I would not care to speculate what the larger implications of that meeting might be just at this stage. As to the meeting between the North Korean Ambassador and Ambassador Lightowler, which has had a little bit of attention in the press in the last day or so, that is one of a number of meetings that have been occurring in various contexts in recent months as the North Koreans have been seeking opportunities to put their point of view to us, not only in Beijing but elsewhere.

  We have been willing recipients to those approaches. So far I have to say that I do not think they have contributed too substantively to the course of the larger negotiations, but they have helped us a little and other countries as well to understand some of the thinking that is going on in the minds of the North Korean government. I think, as I said, that dialogue, consultation and negotiation is the key to the resolution of a lot of these issues. If something can come of the use of channels like that, so much the better and we will not be the first to walk away from them.

  As to the number of days left before historical data is irretrievably destroyed, I do not want to make a comment about that at this stage. It is a highly sensitive issue. It is a matter that will be the subject of report within the next 24 hours by the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the Security Council. Although I have some knowledge of these matters, it is not appropriate at this stage to talk about that on the public record. It is sufficient to say that the situation is really becoming quite critical in terms of that data. There is no doubt about that.

Senator TEAGUE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for the answer to the three specific questions, but I ask the minister further: is it not the case that the UN Security Council has not made any resolution with regard to the Korean peninsula but rather that the Security Council's chairman has made a statement with regard to the Korean peninsula? What is the difference?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The concept of a presidential statement is one that is quite often used in a security council context. It does imply consensus to a statement being made because, as I understand it, one or more countries can deny the right of the president to make a statement, but it does not have quite the significance or quite the degree of commitment associated with it as a formal resolution. But that is not to say it was not intended to be taken very seriously or that the content of this particular statement was not itself very serious. Both are true, but it is a way of implying a graded response over time to a situation that may need a tougher response further down the track.