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Monday, 20 June 1994
Page: 1698

Senator LOOSLEY —Mr question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs relates to the Korean peninsula. I refer to the media reports concerning the apparently positive outcome of the visit to Pyongyang by former US President Jimmy Carter, which I am sure everyone will welcome. Is the minister in a position to confirm that former President Carter's visit has been apparently successful in respect of discussions with the leadership of the DPRK? Is the minister also in a position to advise the Senate of the Australian government's assessment of what effect this development may have in diffusing and lessening tensions on the peninsula of Korea?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Events over the last 72 hours on the Korean peninsula have taken a positive turn and do give us some hope that we may now have a reasonable basis for resumed dialogue between North Korea and the United States and, moreover, that we may still be able to resolve the overall DPRK nuclear issue by negotiation, which is the long held preference of certainly this government.

  Former President Carter's historic visit to Pyongyang does appear to have resulted, in the first place, in agreement for a summit to take place between the leaders of North Korea and South Korea. That is very welcome news. There has never been a summit meeting between the leaders of those two countries and it could well be a very major step forward in improving relations between the two Koreas and, indeed, regional security generally.

  We certainly applaud the decisions which seem to have been taken in this respect and the political will which seems to be now evident and which should see the summit proceed. I emphasise those qualifications because detailed arrangements are still being worked out and there have been false starts in the past in summit proposals of this kind. The summit would be an important element, obviously, in contributing to the resolution of the whole issue. But it is not the only element. A second consideration to emerge from the Carter visit is that the DPRK has made it clear that, for it, a resumption of high-level bilateral talks with the United States is a major priority.

  We now have the United States administration seeking clarification, as it has said through diplomatic channels, of the outcome of the visit in this respect. Before agreeing to a third round of high-level talks, the US administration is, quite reasonably, seeking clarification of the precise implications of North Korea's statement that it is prepared to freeze all nuclear activities. Such a freeze would no doubt need to include, at the least, a commitment to no future reprocessing and the maintenance of all existing IAEA—International Atomic Energy Agency—safeguards. In that respect, it is a very welcome sign that IAEA inspectors do remain on site at the Yongbyon nuclear complex to ensure the integrity of safeguards on the spent fuel which is being unloaded from the nuclear reactor there.

  It is our hope that, subject to these details being confirmed, the USA and the DPRK do proceed to a third round of talks. This remains the basis of international efforts to resolve the nuclear issue, along with the implementation of the bilateral denuclearisation declaration between North Korea and South Korea. The most important outcomes from these talks would be securing North Korean full compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and that country accepting a full range of verification activities, including in relation to past activity on its nuclear program. In return, North Korea could reasonably be expected to receive access to a range of political, economic and security benefits and, indeed, to be welcomed back into the mainstream of the international and regional communities.

  On the question of sanctions, despite former President Carter's comments over the weekend, the US administration has made clear that it will continue with its consultations in the Security Council on such further action unless the DPRK takes the steps necessary to allow a third round of high level talks to proceed. The main point in all this, however, is that clearly there is a further opportunity, perhaps a last opportunity, for the North Koreans, the United States and South Korea to negotiate a resolution of this issue. If that happens, that will, quite sensibly, suspend further Security Council action. Australia certainly urges everyone involved to take the steps necessary to ensure that the negotiating process resumes. That does seem to be unquestionably the most satisfactory way forward from the present situation.