Aussie en­voy vis­its Korea border

Top diplo­mat says she hopes there’s no need for mil­i­tary ac­tion

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - WORLD - By Hyung-jin Kim The As­so­ci­ated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — Aus­tralia’s top diplo­mat vis­ited the heav­ily for­ti­fied border between the two Koreas on Thurs­day and said her govern­ment hopes there will be no need for mil­i­tary ac­tion against North Korea over its weapons pro­grams.

For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop made the com­ments in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press af­ter her visit to the Korean border vil­lage of Pan­munjom with Aus­tralian De­fense Min­is­ter Marise Payne. The two are in South Korea for talks with top of­fi­cials on Fri­day.

Bishop said North Korean border guards came out of their build­ing and took many pho­to­graphs of her and other Aus­tralian of­fi­cials dur­ing their Pan­munjom visit. The North Kore­ans“seemed­to­havea­great deal of in­ter­est in who we were and what we were do­ing,” she said.

It’s not un­usual for North Korean sol­diers to pho­to­graph or use binoc­u­lars to watch high-pro­file vis­i­tors at Pan­munjom, which is in­side the 154-mile-long heav­ily mined Demil­i­ta­rized Zone that serves as a de facto border between the Koreas.

“It’s al­ways a tense sit­u­a­tion, I un­der­stand,” Bishop said. “The Korean War is still alive in the minds of many peo­ple.” The 1950-53 war ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, and the two Koreas re­main tech­ni­cally still at war.

Wor­ries about a pos­si­ble mil­i­tary clash between North Korea and the United States have grown re­cently among many in South Korea and else­where, with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trad­ing in­sults and threats of at­tack over the North’s nu­clear weapon and mis­sile pro­grams.

North Korea con­ducted its sixth and most pow­er­ful nu­clear test in Septem­ber and test-launched two in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles in July. It was sub­se­quently slapped with tougher U.N. sanc­tions. North Korea has vowed not to back off, and out­side an­a­lysts say it is a mat­ter of time un­til it achieves its long-stated goal of pos­sess­ing nu­clear mis­siles ca­pa­ble of strik­ing any­where in the main­land United States.

Bishop said Aus­tralia is work­ing with other na­tions to place max­i­mum pres­sure on North Korea but that “we hope there will be no need for a mil­i­tary op­tion.”

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