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Monday, 6 December 1993
Page: 3847

Senator MacGIBBON —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. What planning has the Department of Defence done against the range of contingencies that will arise if the North Korean government persists in not cooperating with the provisions of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty? Can the minister assure the Senate that Australia will support the United Nations in any military action that the United Nations deems necessary in relation to this issue?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Mr Deputy President, this is more appropriately a matter for the portfolio of foreign affairs than for defence at this stage, although, if it did come to a question of involvement in military action, obviously defence would be involved.

  Our belief at the moment is that this rather delicate situation in North Korea is capable of resolution through the process of negotiation, bilaterally between the United States and North Korea, trilaterally with South Korea as well, and also through the processes of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the disciplines that are being exercised there.

  It is premature to be making any pessimistic evaluations at this stage about where this process is going, although a number of pessimistic scenarios have been around since this became an issue some time ago. In the event that non-compliance seems inevitable with the IAEA processes, the next step would be to refer the matter to the security council of the UN. But there are many steps to go through before it gets to that stage, and there are a great many steps to contemplate before one would have to deal with the possibility of the security council in turn recommending some more decisive military action. I simply do not want to speculate about that at this stage. I do not think any government in the world would want to at this stage.

Senator MacGIBBON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I intentionally did not ask this question of the Minister for Foreign Affairs because I did not want any of the flim-flam and delusions that pass for assessments that come out of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The specific question is: has any planning been done by the Department of Defence against the contingencies if the worst case arises and North Korea does not cooperate with the United States and the United Nations? This is a matter in which Australia has a vital interest, because we would inevitably be involved in it in some way or another. We have certainly shown an interest in supporting the United Nations in the past in guaranteeing some sort of actions in the Korean peninsula. For those reasons, I am a little disappointed that the foreign minister prated in on this. I ask Senator Faulkner whether he will take it up with the Department of Defence and find out whether it has looked at the situation at all.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The supplementary question has to be directed to Senator Gareth Evans.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I will see what the defence minister might wish to say on that subject. I believe that it would be premature for any such contingency planning to occur, for all the reasons that I mentioned before. I deeply regret that Senator MacGibbon chose to describe my honest contribution to the debate as flim-flam. I did not think I was usually guilty of that. I am very distressed that he used that description on this occasion.