North Korea aims to reopen embassy in Australia

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North Korea plans to reopen an embassy in Australia, potentially signaling the reclusive nation’s desire to gradually increase its engagement with some of its Asian-Pacific neighbors, Australian media reported on Wednesday.
“The Australian Government does not oppose the reopening of the embassy which would provide a channel to Pyongyang to convey messages of importance to Australia, including on [North Korea’s] nuclear and missile activities and human rights,” a spokeswoman for Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade said Wednesday.
Australia, a longtime U.S. strategic ally, earlier this month said it plans to lobby for North Korea’s nuclear disarmament during the Pacific nation’s two-year term on the United Nations’ Security Council.
North Korea triggered international alarm about its military intentions in December after a successful rocket launch demonstrated advancing missile capabilities.
Diplomatic ties between Australia and North Korea were established in 1974, but North Korea expelled Australian diplomats from Pyongyang a year later and withdrew its ambassador from Canberra. The embassy reopened in May 2002 but was closed again in 2008 for financial reasons, according to Australia’s foreign affairs department. Since then, North Korea has handled Australian diplomatic matters via its embassy in Jakarta.
Emma Campbell, a postdoctoral fellow at the Australia National University’s Korea Institute said the North Korean move could be seen as a desire for more humanitarian aid and also to learn from Australia’s mining industry.
“It is a very positive sign, we should be encouraged by it,” she said.
A date for the latest embassy opening hasn’t been set, the Australian government spokeswoman said. North Korea’s Jakarta-based representative declined to comment when reached by telephone.
John Lee, an international security expert at the University of Sydney, said Pyongyang’s move to reestablish ties with Canberra was likely a “tactical ploy” rather than a sign of deepening international engagement. “Nothing has changed domestically as far as I can see,” he said.
Australia is already balancing a closer military relationship with the U.S. in the region against deepening economic ties with China, its biggest trading partner. Canberra agreed in 2011 to allow the U.S. military rights to base 2,500 Marines near the strategically important northern city of Darwin, in a counterbalance to China’s rising clout. That caused friction with Chinese officials, who described Australia’s links with the U.S. as a legacy of the Cold War and the U.S.-led effort against communist states.

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