Aug 14, 2017

North Korea Private Members Motion Speech – 14 Aug 2017

I wish to commend the motion raised by the member for Berowra, which condemns the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, otherwise known as North Korea, for the ongoing development and testing of illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including intercontinental ballistic missile tests in June and July 2017. I’m also deeply concerned by reports from US intelligence analysts that have assessed that North Korea has produced a miniaturised nuclear warhead that could fit inside a ballistic missile and that last week it was threatening to strike the US base of Guam. In my view the threat posed by North Korea and supreme leader Kim Jong-un is one of the greatest security challenges facing Australia, and it is something that we should be talking about in this place. However, we must proceed with caution to ensure, as much as we can, that we maintain peace, stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

I welcome the UN Security Council imposing new sanctions on North Korea—which was supported, importantly, by Russia and China—for carrying out intercontinental ballistic missile tests on 3 July and 28 July 2017. I welcome UN resolution 2371, which targets North Korea’s primary exports, including coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood. According to Richard Roth’s CNN report, the sanctions also target other revenue streams, such as banks and joint ventures with foreign companies. The sanctions will slash North Korea’s annual export revenue of $3 billion by more than a third, according to a statement from the office of Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations. UN resolution 2371 not only imposes the strongest sanctions ever imposed in response to a ballistic missile test but also calls on North Korea to cease any further missile launches, nuclear tests or acts of provocation.

It is vital in the coming weeks, if it can be done, to de-escalate tensions, stop the war of words and urge North Korea to return to diplomatic talks. It’s been unfortunate that, since 2009, six-party talks between Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, the US and North Korea have been suspended. In his annual new year’s address in January 2017, the North Korean leader declared his country to be in the final stage of preparation for a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. As North Korea has carried out these tests, it is imperative that some form of diplomatic talks be convened. Any diplomatic talks may be unable to force North Korea to give up its current stockpile of weapons in the short term. As we say in political negotiations, it’s best to prepare for the worst but negotiate for the best possible outcome.

In extemporising a bit about what is occurring in this situation, in light of the somewhat provocative language used by what I categorise to be the very reckless leader of North Korea, it is imperative that the political class maintain an appropriate posture in dealing with the bellicose threats issued by that leader. I particularly welcome the contribution made by someone I know, John McLaughlin, a former deputy director at the Central Intelligence Agency between 2001 and 2004, and acting director in 2004. In this period of escalating crisis, he refers on his social media to a conversation, which occurred at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, between President John F Kennedy, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and Pierre Salinger. In that discussion President Kennedy urged restraint in the use of language about what actions would be taken and sought to clarify what Lyndon Johnson had said, because Lyndon Johnson had intimated that there’d be direct military action taken against Cuba. In a general sense, in any utterances made, I think we could do with the sort of discipline and rigour that was applied by President Kennedy. Whilst preparing for the worst, we must negotiate for the best. That implies, I think, some significant challenges for Australia in terms of its future defence should North Korea not comply with the UN sanctions and UN directives, but, at this stage, cool heads should prevail.


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