Australia vows to support allies despite N. Korea threat

SYDNEY • Australia has pledged to continue to support allies seeking to curb North Korea's efforts to build a nuclear arsenal, even after Pyongyang warned of the risks of siding with the United States.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in Sydney yesterday: "Australia is not a primary target. Our focus is on ensuring that we can bring North Korea back to the negotiating table."

She said the North may seek to time new "provocative action" to coincide with China's Communist Party Congress beginning on Wednesday.

Last Saturday, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency had cited a foreign ministry spokesman as saying that joining the US in seeking to increase pressure on the North would mean that Australia "will not be able to avoid a disaster".

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

Ms Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne recently 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.

"We will not be cowed by the North Koreans," Australian Minister for Veterans' Affairs Dan Tehan told Sky News in an interview yesterday. "We will continue to do all we can to protect and help and support our allies."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Australia vows to support allies despite N. Korea threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe