Australia eyes role after Trump-Kim summit

Daniel McCulloch
(Australian Associated Press)


Australia is already looking at what role it can play in the denuclearisation of North Korea, following an historic summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

The US president and North Korean leader pledged at a summit in Singapore on Tuesday to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Their commitment reaffirms an agreement struck between the leaders of North and South Korea in April.

The pair also promised to work towards building “a lasting a stable peace” on the Korean peninsula, and to repatriate remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Korean War.

Mr Trump said he would end “provocative” annual joint military exercises with Seoul, and spoke of his hope to one day withdraw the 32,000 US soldiers stationed in South Korea.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop described the breakthrough summit and signed declaration as the first positive development involving North Korea in more than a decade.

“We are cautiously optimistic but of course the test will be verification of the denuclearisation,” Ms Bishop told the ABC on Thursday evening.

Complete denuclearisation would mean the verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Ms Bishop expects the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency to take a leading role.

“We in Australia, the Australian government is currently assessing what we could offer in terms of expertise to assist in that verification process,” she said.

Tuesday’s summit was the first time a sitting US president had met face-to-face with a North Korean leader.

Mr Trump said he had formed a “special bond” with Mr Kim.

“We had a terrific day and we learned a lot about each other and our countries,” Mr Trump said.

“We’ll meet many times.”

Asked whether he would invite Mr Kim to the White House, Mr Trump said: “Absolutely, I will.”

Mr Kim, whose country is subject to a broad range of international sanctions – including from Australia – over its illegal weapons program, said he and Mr Trump had “decided to leave the past behind”.

“The world will see a major change,” the North Korean leader said through an interpreter.

After a 13-second greeting handshake, Mr Kim told Mr Trump through a translator: “Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy … from a science fiction movie.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten said not many people would have predicted the summit would take place, so he was pleased it occurred.

“My view is always you achieve more by talking in the same room than yelling at each other through megaphones at a distance,” he told reporters.

“But I’m cautious. On this issue the national government and I are of one mind. We’re pleased to see it, but we’ve seen discussions before, in previous decades.”

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was among the first to respond to the summit.

“We should always be sceptical, but we should never allow our scepticism to suffocate the possibility of real progress here,” he said.

Australia has imposed sanctions on North Korea – covering travel, goods and services, banking and scientific co-operation – since 2006 in response to concerns about the regime’s weapons programs.

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