Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Australia to send diplomatic team to N.K.

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Korea Herald
Yoav Cerralbo

Last week, the Australian government announced that it would be sending a diplomatic team to North Korea to help strengthen bilateral ties.

In Seoul, Australian Ambassador Peter Rowe spoke about this news with The Korea Herald, explaining that the Australian team will be looking at ways they can help in energy, aid and safeguards expertise.

“These are things that Australia can contribute,” he said.

Rowe said that Australia, a strong proponent of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, would be “happy” to provide expertise and training in nuclear safeguards as part of North Korea’s dismantling process.

This bilateral exchange is not new to both countries. After the 1994 framework agreement, Australia helped to train and install safeguards in North Korea.

“That was when we started to develop the bilateral relationship,” he said. “It was only as the North Koreans were doing things like missile and nuclear tests that we had to run backwards.”

He added that Australia wants to see North Korea as a constructive, positive member of the international community.

“If North Korea wants to join the international community in this process, that is return enough for us because it contributes to regional security and stability,” the ambassador said.

The diplomatic mission would be coordinated with the other members of the six-party talks and as the secretive and unpredictable regime fulfills the benchmarks that were set up in the deal, Australia would be there in support and would reciprocally increase the relationship.

The idea of this mission, Rowe said, is to urge North Korea to fulfill the obligations they’ve undertaken in this most recent agreement. “That will be its main task.”

At the six-party talks recently, fueled-starved North Korea agreed to start the process of shutting down their Yongbyon nuclear reactor within 60 days in return for initial aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil after international inspectors have confirmed the shutdown.

“I’m reasonably confident that North Korea will go with the commitments they made for the first 60 days,” he said.


Australia to ban N Korean ships

Monday, October 16th, 2006


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.”


Australia, Japan roll out curbs on Pyongyang

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Joong Ang Daily
Ser Myo-ja, Lee Sang-il

Japan and Australia yesterday announced new sanctions against North Korea in another sign of increased financial pressure on the communist state, which has declared it possesses nuclear arms.

The announced purpose of the sanctions was to push Pyongyang back to six-party talks in Beijing to disarm the country in return for diplomatic recognition and financial aid.

In Washington, U.S. officials also signaled that additional sanctions against the North may be in store.

In Tokyo, the cabinet approved a partial freeze on North Korean assets in Japan, imposing restrictions on 15 North Korean agencies or companies and one individual.

“This shows the resolve of the international community and Japan,” said Shinzo Abe, the chief cabinet secretary and heir-apparent to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The restrictions on financial transactions were directed, Tokyo said, at figures related to North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

After North Korea test-launched a barrage of missiles in early July, Tokyo barred the entry of a North Korean ship to its ports for six months and forbade the entry of North Korean government officials into Japan.

Australia, one of the few Western countries that had diplomatic relations with North Korea, acted the same day, imposing similar bans on financial transactions by people and companies it said were involved in North Korean arms programs.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the press, “This supports and complements similar action taken by Japan today and previous actions taken by the United States, and sends a strong message to North Korea.”

In Washington, a State Department official told Korean journalists in a background briefing that the United States might reimpose sanctions lifted after an accord in 1994, which temporarily reduced tensions over the North’s nuclear programs. He said a proposal to restore the sanctions existing before 1994 was being studied. The relaxation was modest; U.S. companies were allowed to offer telephone service to North Korea and import some raw materials.

In Seoul, Song Min-soon, the Blue House senior security advisor, reacted cautiously to the announcements, saying it would be “inappropriate” to comment on sanctions imposed by other governments. He said the matter was one for capitals to decide, based on a United Nations Security Council resolution critical of North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and those nations’ own laws.

Separately, Beijing rebuffed a U.S. invitation to a meeting Thursday of financial ministers in New York to discuss North Korea.

From the BBC:
New sanctions target North Korea

Japan and Australia have announced new financial sanctions against North Korea, stepping up pressure on the secretive state over missile tests.

The sanctions will freeze the transfer of money to North Korea by groups suspected of having links to its nuclear or missile programmes.

The move, which follows similar action by the US, comes after Pyongyang launched several missiles in July.

South Korea has urged other countries not to push the North into a corner.

The South is worried that the North may retaliate by carrying out a nuclear test, which would destroy any remaining hope of a diplomatic solution to the stand-off.

Japanese government spokesman Shinzo Abe said the new sanctions were in line with a United Nations resolution which denounced the missile tests.

The Japanese measures affect 15 groups and one individual, and will come into effect later on Tuesday, according to Japanese media.

The Australian measures applied to 12 companies and one person, according to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who said the sanctions were “consistent with our strong international stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Media reports said the two lists were almost identical.

Tough stance

North Korea’s decision to test-fire seven missiles in July – including a long-range Taepodong-2 which is believed to be capable of reaching Alaska – angered the international community.

A UN resolution demanded that North Korea suspend its ballistic missile programme, and barred all UN member states from supplying North Korea with material related to missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

In the immediate aftermath, Japan imposed limited sanctions, including a decision to ban a North Korean trade ferry from Japanese ports and a moratorium on charter flights from Pyongyang.

The new measures also called for closer scrutiny of those wanting to send money or transfer financial assets to North Korea.

“By taking these measures, we have demonstrated the resolve of the international community and Japan,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.

“I do not know how North Korea will respond, but I hope North Korea will accept the UN Security Council resolution in a sincere manner.”

The BBC correspondent in Tokyo, Chris Hogg, says there is still some doubt about how effective these sanctions will be.

Although Japan looks to be clamping down on North Korea, other countries that exert a strong influence on the country – notably China and South Korea – are reluctant to impose similar measures.

Following the Japanese announcement, China restated its opposition to sanctions and called for further dialogue.

Nuclear fears

In addition to fears over North Korea’s missile programmes, the international community is also worried about its nuclear intentions.

The United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have repeatedly tried to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear programme.

But the so-called six-party talks have been on hold since November 2005, because North Korea refuses to attend until Washington lifted economic restrictions against it.

Exactly a year ago, North Korea agreed in principle to give up its nuclear weapons programme in return for economic help and security guarantees.

The move was greeted by surprise and relief, but a joint statement issued at the time failed to bridge the wide gulf between North Korea and the US. One year on, the North remains as isolated as ever.

The region remains on alert in case Pyongyang decides to follow up on the July ballistic missile tests with a nuclear test.

Analysts say the North has enough plutonium for several bombs, but has yet to prove it can build a reliable weapon.


N Korean report raises Pong Su compo claim

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Australia Broadcasting Corporation (Reuters)

North Korea hinted at seeking compensation from Australia for seizing and sinking the Pong Su, that was used to transport drugs, according to a state media report.

Last week, two Australian fighter jets bombed and sank the impounded North Korean cargo ship in what Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said was a strong message to Pyongyang about its suspected involvement in drug running.

The official KCNA news agency cited a relatively obscure pro-North Korean group as saying Australia needs to compensate North Korea.

“The Australian authorities should make an honest apology to it according to the results of the trial and compensate to the ship and its crewmen for the human, material and mental damage done to them,” KCNA reported the Federation of Koreans in the United States as saying in a commentary.

There was no official demand for compensation from North Korea but analysts have noted that since the government controls the media, it only permits approved comments to appear.

The 4,000-tonne ship the Pong Su had been impounded since 2003, when it led the Australian navy on a 1,100 kilometre chase off the south-eastern coast after being spotted unloading part of a 150 kilogram shipment of heroin at a secluded beach.

Eight crew members were charged with drug smuggling.

The captain and three officers were sent back to North Korea earlier this month after being found not guilty of aiding the drug operation. Four other men have been found guilty of drugs charges relate to the case.

The United States has said it suspects North Korea of engaging in illicit activities such as counterfeiting and drug trafficking as a way to secure funds for its anaemic economy.


N Korean heroin ship sunk by jet

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006


Video of the ship’s destruction on Youtube

A North Korean cargo ship that was used to smuggle heroin into Australia has been sunk by an Australian fighter jet.

An F-111 aircraft bombed the Pong Su during target practice on Thursday at a secret location offshore, police said.

Australian troops seized the ship in 2003 after spotting it unloading part of a huge heroin shipment at a beach.

The Australian government said the bombing was a warning to North Korea to halt its involvement in drug smuggling – an allegation Pyongyang rejects.

“It is appropriate that we publicly demonstrate our outrage at what has happened by sinking this ship,” Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

Captain cleared

“We are concerned about possible links between the North Korean ship and the North Korean government.”

The Pong Su’s cargo of heroin, worth about US$115 million (£66 million), would have provided four million hits of the drug on Australian streets, Mr Downer said.

Earlier this month, an Australian jury cleared the captain of the Pong Su and three officers of involvement in an international drug ring.

But four crew members who were involved in transporting the heroin from ship to shore pleaded guilty to drug charges.

Two have been sentenced to 22 and 23 years in prison and the other two are awaiting sentence.

The 3,500-tonne Pong Su was used to smuggle in more than 125 kilograms of heroin.

High-sea chase

It had anchored off the town of Lorne in Victoria state while the cargo was carried ashore by dinghy.

It was seized in April 2003 after a four-day chase by the Australian navy.

Earlier this week, the freighter was towed out of Sydney Harbour to a location 140km (90 miles) off the coast of eastern Australia, the Australian Federal Police said.

The fighter jet then dropped the bomb that sank the ship, the police added.

Although North Korea has denied any link to the smuggling operation, Mr Downer said it was hard to imagine a shipping company acting on its own in Pyongyang’s Stalinist-style economy.

“I mean this isn’t, after all, a private sector economy where private companies are doing things on their own accord,” Mr Downer said.

“North Korea has been involved in illicit drug trade, North Korea has been involved in illicit financial dealings, and North Korea has been involved in the illicit trade in WMD (weapons of mass destruction) technology over quite some years,” he added.

Australia and the United States have said the case of the Pong Su strengthens their suspicions that Pyongyang deals in drugs to help support its failing economy.