Will Australia Help North Korea?

5 05 2008

Australia-DPRK negotiationsIn March 2008, before leaving for a 17-day trip to the United States, Europe and China, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared his foreign policy philosophy.

“The truth is that Australia’s voice has been too quiet for too long across the various councils of the world,” he told the Australian National University’s East Asia Forum. “That is why during the course of the next three years, the world will see an increasingly activist Australian international policy in areas where we believe we may be able to make a positive difference.” Rudd assured the audience that the new Australian government is committed to the principle of “creative middle-power diplomacy” as the best means of enhancing Australia’s national interests.

The twelve years of Howard government rule (1995-2007) were characterized by one-sided conservative foreign policy. Australian Liberals readily accepted from American neoconservatives a doctrine of global military pre-emption and armed democratic enlargement.

The Australian Labor Party, victorious at last year’s federal elections in November 2007, now proudly states that its foreign policy platform is based on the three pillars — alliance with the United States, active membership of the United Nations and comprehensive engagement with Asia — that manifest realism, liberal internationalism and regionalism.

Given this new approach, will Australia consider a more active approach in helping troubled nations in the Asia-Pacific region? See the full text of the article here…

Here is the official answer to this question:

Australia Will Not Resume Economic Aid for Nuclear-armed North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on May 7 that his country will not resume development assistance for North Korea unless it takes “substantial” steps towards denuclearization.

The minister, on a three-day trip in Seoul from May 6, however, said Canberra will continue providing humanitarian aid without attaching any conditions. He stressed that cooperation between the new Australian and South Korean governments is essential in addressing the nuclear crisis and other regional concerns.

“The nuclear weapons of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) pose a serious threat to regional stability. Both our countries are committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Smith said at a forum, using the official name of the communist nation. He took office five months ago following the Australian Labor Party’s win in elections.

He expressed support for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s policy on the North. “President Lee’s firm position on the DPRK – making economic assistance conditional on progress towards denuclearization and an improvement in the DPRK’s human rights record, while keeping humanitarian aid unconditional, aligns closely with our own policy approach,” he said. “Australia has suspended development assistance until the DPRK makes substantial progress towards denuclearization,” he added.

and the most recent story by Professor by Tessa Morris-Suzuku of the Australian National University:

“Another Disaster Looms in North Korea”

Sydney Morning Herald (May 12, 2008)

My friend in Japan can tell you what it feels like. First the bowls of gritty corn mixed with a few grains of rice get smaller and smaller. To satisfy your aching stomach, you boil the grains in water, making a grey watery gruel. This silences your hunger – for a while. Then the grain diminishes until the gruel is little more than water. You get cold and tired. Any effort seems too difficult. In the street the bodies lie like bundles of rags beside the road. No one does much about them. Everyone is too exhausted by the struggle to survive.

That was North Korea in 1995-97, during the famine that the authorities euphemistically call the Arduous March. It is estimated that 600,000 to one million North Koreans died of starvation. My friend survived, mainly because she lived near the Chinese border and slipped across it to trade on the black market. Now the nightmare is beginning again. But this time the border between North Korea and China is much more tightly controlled, and black market activities have become even more dangerous. Last month the South Korean aid organisation Good Friends reported that a second Arduous March was beginning and warned that it would be difficult to stabilise the situation if nothing was done by the end of the month. At the start of this month, when nothing had been done, Good Friends began reporting deaths from starvation, particularly around the town of Yangdeok, north-east of Pyongyang… Read the full story here.




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