Australia says won't be cowed by North Korea's 'disaster' threat

Australia's defence minister Marise Payne and foreign minister Julie Bishop stand with South Korea's foreign minister Kang Kyung Wha and defense minister Song Young Moo prior to their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul.
Australia's defence minister Marise Payne and foreign minister Julie Bishop stand with South Korea's foreign minister Kang Kyung Wha and defense minister Song Young Moo prior to their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australia pledged to continue to support allies seeking to curb North Korea's efforts to build a nuclear arsenal after Pyongyang warned of the risks of siding with US President Donald Trump's administration.

Joining the United States in seeking to increase pressure on North Korea would mean Australia "will not be able to avoid a disaster", the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Saturday (Oct 14) cited a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

"Australia is showing dangerous moves of zealously joining the frenzied political and military provocations of the US," the spokesman was quoted as saying, citing Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's visit to South Korea.

"We will not be cowed by the North Koreans," Mr Dan Tehan, Australia's minister for veterans' affairs, told Sky News in an interview on Sunday. "We will continue to do all we can to protect and help and support our allies."

The international community is prepared to work with North Korea if it meets demands to halt its nuclear-weapons programme, Mr Tehan said.

Ms Bishop and Australia's Defence Minister Marise Payne last week visited South Korea, and the demilitarised zone that separates the country from its neighbour, backing potential tougher measures aimed at compelling North Korea to negotiate.

The United Nations has agreed on two rounds of sanctions since the beginning of August, while the US Treasury Department has moved to impose new penalties on banks and individuals linked to the country's financial networks.

"The strategy is to deter North Korea from carrying out any further illegal acts and to compel it back to the negotiating table so that there is a peaceful resolution to the current crisis," Ms Bishop told reporters in the demilitarised zone, according to a government transcript.

Nato countries should aim to find a diplomatic solution to North Korea's crisis and avoid a potentially catastrophic armed response, the bloc's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.