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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15740


Mr CIOBO (2:07 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister inform the House of Australia's response to the G8 leaders' declaration yesterday? What action is being taken to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by countries such as North Korea?


Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for his question. I appreciate his interest. The House will be aware that the G8 met in Evian on Lake Geneva in France. They issued a statement on 2 June highlighting the danger that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery pose to us all. I think this is very important because it is an argument we have been making for a long time: the greatest threats to international security are weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue or dangerous states—irresponsible states—and the risk of the transfer of that technology to terrorist organisations. This is the greatest security threat the world faces today. The eight leaders at the Evian summit absolutely addressed that issue. We welcome the G8 leaders' action plan to prevent terrorists from getting access to radiological materials to make what are often described as dirty bombs—radiological bombs.

We have played a longstanding and active role in ensuring the security and safety of these materials. The House may be interested to know that we are to run a course for ASEAN countries in November to assist the ASEAN countries with physical protection of nuclear materials and radiological sources. The G8 leaders, including Russia, unanimously urged North Korea to visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs. I think it is encouraging that even Russia, which is a traditional friend of North Korea, signed up to that statement. It is also encouraging that the G8 meeting called on all countries to establish measures to control the transfer of weapons of mass destruction related materials.

Australia is one of several countries that have been invited by the United States to explore practical ideas to coordinate efforts to curb weapons of mass destruction and missile proliferation. Such arrangements might include interdicting and disrupting the flow of WMD related materials to and from a country like North Korea. I know the Prime Minister discussed this with President Bush at the Crawford meeting last month. It was a significant component of my discussions with Japanese ministers a couple of weeks ago—the Japanese foreign minister, the Prime Minister and the minister responsible for Japan's self-defence agency, Minister Ishiba.

We are under no illusions as to how difficult it will be to interdict WMD materials—it will be extremely difficult. But the importance of this issue does require a coordinated and immediate international response. North Korea and other countries that wish to get involved in this illicit trade—this highly dangerous trade—need to understand that the international community will not tolerate their involvement in activities that, in the end, threaten regional and global security.