Representatives from 11 countries are meeting in Australia to discuss U.S. proposals for halting trade in weapons of mass destruction. At a security conference in Brisbane, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton said that Washington and its allies will act to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. He says the effort will be part of the war on terrorism.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has yet to say if his government would commit forces to a multinational crackdown on the weapons trade.
Australia supports the Proliferation Security Initiative, formalized in Spain last month by 11 nations, including Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the United States.
Opposition politicians in Australia, however, worry the country's forces could be dragged into another U.S.-led campaign overseas. Many objected to Australia's participation in the war in Iraq.
Kevin Rudd is the opposition Labor party's foreign affairs spokesman. He says that while there is a problem with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Australia needs to have all the facts before taking part in any intervention force.
"For Mr. Downer to run-off at the mouth and to begin speculating about the possible future deployment of Australian naval and air capabilities in some future, unspecified interdiction role against the North Koreans is getting way ahead of himself and is just plain irresponsible," says Mr. Rudd.
During the two-day meeting in Brisbane, delegates will discuss if it would be legal to stop nations from transporting banned weapons.
The Australians have said international law might have to be amended, or a special anti-proliferation convention may be needed before action could be taken. That would require international diplomacy to build an agreement on the issue. China, in particular, would need to be consulted, because it is an ally of North Korea.
The United States and other governments suspect North Korea, Iran and several other nations of trading in banned weapons and the equipment to produce them. In addition, North Korea is suspected of trading illegal drugs. Earlier this year, a North Korean ship was captured after its crew allegedly tried to smuggle drugs into Australia.