Media release from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

D1 / 7 January 2003

Australia's Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors Following the IAEA Director-General's Report on the Implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement Between the IAEA and North Korea - Vienna 6 January 2003

The Australian Delegation would first like to express its full support for the resolution just adopted by the Board.

We would like to thank you for your efforts over the past few weeks in bringing forward a consensus resolution for adoption by the Board of Governors. We would also like to thank the Director General and his staff for their untiring and even-handed efforts aimed at re-establishing cooperation with the DPRK, as outlined in document GOV/2002/62.

The reactivation by the DPRK of its nuclear program - and its decision effectively to cease cooperation with the IAEA - is of profound concern. The international community has a shared interest in sending a strong, unified message to North Korea that it must abandon its nuclear weapons programs, and comply fully with its nuclear non-proliferation obligations. That is why today's consensus resolution is so important.

North Korea has explicit legal obligations under its NPT safeguards agreement with the IAEA - an Agreement which remains binding and in-force. There is also no basis for DPRK claims to "unique status" under the NPT. The unilateral decision by the DPRK to expel IAEA inspectors and remove containment and surveillance equipment means the Agency is unable to verify whether North Korea is fulfilling its legal obligations. This is simply an unacceptable situation which the DPRK must redress urgently.

Australia, for its part, has made clear to North Korea on a number of occasions its grave concerns at its nuclear weapons program, including in meetings between our Foreign Minister and the DPRK Ambassador to Australia. We are continuing to use the channel offered by the DPRK Embassy in Canberra to ensure our views are clearly understood.

North Korea's actions have raised tensions in the Korean peninsula and more widely in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia is working actively with our friends and allies, including in the region, to find a peaceful and constructive way forward.

In our own ongoing discussions with the DPRK, it has been made clear that it will not be possible to develop the bilateral relationship until North Korea demonstrates that it will abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. An Australian Embassy will now not be opened in Pyongyang in the foreseeable future.

Expelling nuclear inspectors, reactivating old nuclear facilities and heightening tensions will not induce the international community to provide economic support to North Korea. The DPRK must understand that it is already having the reverse effect. The path to a constructive relationship with its neighbours and the wider international community is for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions once and for all and to allow the IAEA to verify this fact in accordance with its legal obligations.

My Delegation would also like to emphasise that North Korea's reactivation of its nuclear program and non-cooperation with the IAEA is a concern of genuinely international dimensions - not simply a bilateral matter. DPRK engagement with the IAEA is an appropriate path to finding a diplomatic solution.

The way forward for the DPRK has now been made very clear. In operative paragraph 6 of today's resolution, the Board has identified the necessary steps the DPRK needs to take to achieve a peaceful resolution to this issue, which are worth reiterating:

We cannot forget that the Board of Governors is required to act because of its own legal obligations.

As operative paragraph 7 of the resolution makes clear, if the DPRK does not take "all necessary steps to allow the Agency to implement all the required safeguards measures", it will be found by the Board to be in further non-compliance with its safeguards agreement - which would necessitate referral to the UN Security Council.

Australia urges North Korea not to let this important opportunity pass, and calls on the DPRK authorities to resume cooperation with the Agency, as set out in the resolution, as a matter of urgency.

Media inquiries: 02 6261 1555