‘U.S. FEARS APAC NUKE RACE’

Ja­pan, S. Korea may arm them­selves if North not stopped, says Aussie min­is­ter

New Straits Times - - World -

SE­NIOR Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials fear a nu­clear arms race in Asia-Pa­cific if an in­creas­ingly bel­liger­ent North Korea is not reined in, Aus­tralia’s for­eign min­is­ter said yes­ter­day af­ter talks in New York.

Py­ongyang has launched a se­ries of mis­siles this year, in­clud­ing a Hwa­song-12 in­ter­me­di­at­erange pro­jec­tile this month, which the North claimed was ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing a “heavy” nu­clear war­head, fu­elling ten­sions with Wash­ing­ton.

It in­sists it needs nu­clear weapons to de­fend it­self against the threat of in­va­sion.

The US is wor­ried that if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is not stopped, other coun­tries in the re­gion, in­clud­ing Ja­pan and South Korea, would be com­pelled to seek their own nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity as a de­fence mea­sure.

Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop told The Aus­tralian news­pa­per this was con­veyed to her in New York, where she held meet­ings with US am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Nikki Ha­ley.

“In my dis­cus­sions with se­nior of­fi­cials in both South Korea and the US, the view was that should North Korea ever be recog­nised as a nu­clear weapons state, then Ja­pan and (South) Korea would have lit­tle op­tion than to de­velop their own nu­clear weapons ca­pa­bil­ity,” she said.

“That is why there is such a strong view that North Korea must be de­nied this ca­pa­bil­ity.”

On the cam­paign trail last year, Trump raised the pos­si­bil­ity of Ja­pan and South Korea arm­ing them­selves with nu­clear weapons, par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive in Ja­pan — the only coun­try to ever be at­tacked by atomic bombs — but later drew back from the re­marks.

The US says it is will­ing to en­ter into talks with North Korea if it halts its nu­clear and mis­sile tests, but it has also warned that mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion was an op­tion, send­ing fears of con­flict spi­ralling.

Bishop said the “loud and clear” mes­sage from Ha­ley was that “when the US said all op­tions are on the ta­ble, they mean it, they are not kid­ding”, point­ing to the US send­ing a nu­clear sub­ma­rine to the re­gion.

More en­cour­ag­ingly, the North’s main trade part­ner and ally China ap­peared to be get­ting on­side with the global com­mu­nity, she added in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view with ra­dio sta­tion 2GB.

“North Korea is re­buff­ing over­tures from China, which is frus­trat­ing China,” she said.

“In the past, it was seen as very much in the sphere of in­flu­ence and a branch of their com­mu­nist party. Now, North Korea is be­ing far more bel­liger­ent... of­fen­sive and mak­ing snubs to China.”

The US has for weeks been ne­go­ti­at­ing a new Se­cu­rity Coun­cil sanc­tions res­o­lu­tion with China. But Ha­ley said last week that no fi­nal draft had been clinched.

Bishop urged Bei­jing to ad­here to a new sanc­tions regime, say­ing it would “change the eco­nomic sce­nario in North Korea and es­sen­tially bring it to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble”.

“We have a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity in re­la­tion to eco­nomic sanc­tions and this is where we need China’s sup­port.”

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