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Australia Calls on N. Korea to Abandon Nuclear Program - 2003-01-02

Australia is calling for renewed and concerted international effort to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Pyongyang must realize it cannot win increased aid or other concessions by breaching its non-proliferation obligations.

The Australians think North Korea is playing a game of nuclear brinkmanship. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Pyongyang's decision to resume its nuclear weapons program and expel U.N. nuclear monitors was probably aimed at forcing aid and trade concessions from the international community.

Mr. Downer on Thursday told the Australian broadcaster ABC the secretive state must fall back into line.

"Kicking out the inspectors, reactivating the Yongbyon facility, these things are not going to encourage the international community to provide support. It's having the reverse effect," he said.

The Australians and their allies accuse the North of walking away from the Agreed Framework, a deal reached eight years ago with Washington that froze its nuclear programs in return for fuel aid. The accord ran into trouble in October after the United States revealed Pyongyang was running a separate nuclear program in violation of the accord. Washington and its allies then cut off the fuel aid.

Western intelligence officials think North Korea already has one or two nuclear weapons. Experts say it could produce even more within months at its newly reopened facilities.

Pyongyang says it is reactivating its nuclear plant at Yongbyon to generate electricity but analysts say it is an attempt to force the United States to resume talks on normalizing relations. Washington says it will not talk until there are verifiable signs that North Korea is shutting down its nuclear efforts.

Australia is one of only a handful of governments to have diplomatic relations with North Korea. Canberra postponed the opening of its embassy in Pyongyang to protest North Korea's nuclear efforts.

Mr. Downer says Australia is working closely with the United States to pressure North Korea to reverse its recent steps.