North Korea has bluntly warned Australia of a possible nuclear strike if Canberra persists in “blindly and zealously toeing the US line”.
North Korea’s state new agency (KCNA) quoted a foreign ministry spokesman castigating Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop , after she said the rogue nation would be subject to further Australian sanctions and for “spouting a string of rubbish against the DPRK over its entirely just steps for self-defence”.
“If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK,” the report said.
“The Australian foreign minister had better think twice about the consequences to be entailed by her reckless tongue-lashing before flattering the US.”
Bishop had said this week on the ABC’s AM program that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program posed a “serious threat” to Australia unless it was stopped by the international community.
She said the sanctions were to send “the clearest possible message to North Korea, that its behaviour will not be tolerated, that a nuclear-armed North Korea is not acceptable to our region”.
She also urged China to step up pressure on North Korea to stamp out its belligerent and illegal behaviour.
The KCNA report said that what Bishop had said “can never be pardoned” as it was “an act against peace” and North Korea’s “entirely just steps for self defence”.
It said Australia was shielding a hostile US policy of nuclear threats and blackmail against North Korea which was the root cause of the current crisis on on the Korean Peninsula and encouraged the US to opt for “reckless and risky military actions”.
In the report from Pyongyang, the North Korean ministry spokesman accused the Australian government of “blindly and zealously toeing the US line”.
“It is hard to expect good words from the foreign minister of such government. But if she is the foreign minister of a country, she should speak with elementary common sense about the essence of the situation,” the spokesman said.
“It is entirely attributable to the nuclear threat escalated by the US and its anachronistic policy hostile to the DPRK that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching close to the brink of war in an evil cycle of increasing tensions.”
Labor’s defence spokesman Richard Marles said on Sunday North Korea’s threat was of enormous concern but such threats had become part of the regime’s day-to-day rhetoric.
Marles said Pyongyang had made similar threats to other nations, even a veiled one at China.
But he did not believe conflict on the Korean peninsula was particularly likely and backed the approach the US had taken on North Korea.
“I do think a harder edge being presented by America in respect of North Korea is not a bad thing,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
He believed the early signs coming out of China, an ally of North Korea, were positive, it saying if the problem is going to be dealt with it needed to be through “China, America and the whole world”.
He said Australia’s global economic interaction was in large measure in that precise part of the world with its main trading partners being China, Japan and South Korea.
“So we have an enormous interest in a stable Korean peninsula and stability in that region,” he said.
North Korea’s nuclear threat dominated talks on Saturday between the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the US vice-president, Mike Pence , with Turnbull saying China had the leverage to influence North Korea.
Pence praised Turnbull for publicly calling on China to do more to pressure North Korea to dump its nuclear warheads and ballistic missile program.
Pence would not rule out the use of military force in North Korea but said “all options are on the table” and he stressed the US was focused on diplomacy at this stage.