Australia to ban N Korean ships


Australia is to ban North Korean ships from entering its ports in response to its claimed nuclear bomb test, the foreign minister has announced.

Alexander Downer told Parliament the move would help Australia make a “quite clear contribution” to other sanctions agreed by the UN on Saturday.

The UN resolution imposes both weapons and financial sanctions on the North, but despite the unanimous vote, disagreements have emerged between the members of the council.

Beijing has indicated that it still has reservations about carrying out the extensive cargo inspections that Washington says are called for in the resolution.

Ship inspections

Australia is one of the few countries to have diplomatic relations with North Korea, but its trade ties are limited. In 2005, imports amounted to A$16m ($12m).

“If we are to ban North Korean vessels from visiting Australian ports then I think that will help Australia make a quite clear contribution to the United Nations sanctions regime.”

Japan, which banned North Korean ships from its ports last week, is looking at whether it can provide logistical support for US vessels if they start trying to inspect cargo ships going to or from North Korea.

The restrictions imposed by Japan’s pacifist constitution may require the government to pass new laws to allow that to happen.

In a further diplomatic drive, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to arrive in Japan on Wednesday.

She reportedly intends to reassure the country that Washington will provide adequate protection in the event that North Korea obtains a viable nuclear weapon – a message she will later take to South Korea.

‘Heavy responsibility’

The UN resolution against North Korea was agreed after lengthy negotiations.

It imposes tough weapons restrictions, targets luxury goods and imposes a travel ban on some North Korean officials.

It also allows the inspection of cargo vessels going in and out of North Korea for banned materials, although the resolution was weakened slightly at China and Russia’s insistence, to make this provision less mandatory.

Beijing’s UN envoy, Wang Guangya, said immediately after the vote that China urged countries to “refrain from taking any provocative steps that may intensify the tension”.

Both Russia and China are concerned that inspections could spark naval confrontations with North Korean boats.

But the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, told American television that China had voted for the sanctions and therefore “China itself now has an obligation to make sure that it complies.”


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