Australia–North Korea relations

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Australian-North Korean relations

North Korea


Australia–North Korea relations are the current and historical bilateral relations between Australia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea).

The two countries nominally have diplomatic relations, though as of 2013 neither Australia nor North Korea has an official diplomatic presence in the other country. Instead, diplomatic relations between the two are handled by non-resident embassies. The Australian embassy in Seoul manages relations with North Korea, whereas the DPRK embassy in Jakarta is responsible for their relations with Australia.[1] Generally the relations are stressed, due to disputes such as over the North Korean nuclear program.

According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, only 7% of Australians view North Korea's influence positively, with 85% expressing a negative view.[2]


Monthly value of Australian merchandise exports to North Korea (A$ millions) since 1988
Monthly value of North Korean merchandise exports to Australia (A$ millions) since 1988

Australia and North Korea first established diplomatic ties in 1974, but the following year Pyongyang inexplicably expelled Australia's ambassador and shut its embassy in Canberra after a short stay of 11 months. In February 1998 Pyongyang's Ambassador to Indonesia visited Canberra and held talks with officials. Further bilateral talks were held in Bangkok in June 1999, and in September 1999 Foreign Minister Alexander Downer met his counterpart from North Korea, Paek Nam-sun, in New York. On the North Korean side the greatest concern was attracting new Australian trade and investment. The Australian interlocutors used these occasions to remind North Korea of its responsibilities to take steps to mitigate tensions on the Korean peninsula and to respond to concerns regarding weapons proliferation.[3]

In 2002, in an event called Pong Su incident, the North Korean ship Pong Su was discovered in the Australian waters while its crew members were smuggling illegal drugs. The ship attempted an escape and was taken over by the Australian commandos after four days chase.

Since North Korea conducted a nuclear test in October 2006, Australian entry visas have not been issued for North Korean citizens and North Korean ships have been banned from Australian ports. Most bilateral cooperation with the country has been put on hold by the Australian side "until the nuclear-weapon crisis is resolved".[3]

In January 2008, North Korea closed its embassy in Canberra. In January 2013, North Korea requested permission to reopen its Canberra embassy, despite Australia supporting increased international sanctions against the country due to its continued nuclear regime.[4] This was declined by Australia in June 2013.[5]

Economic relations[edit]

In 2007 import figures vacillated between A$6 and $11 million and were made up of chemical elements for use in electronics, copper, civil engineering equipment, household equipment, hydrocarbons and derivatives, textile yarns and fabrics, iron, steel, and chemicals. North Korea ranked a modest 125th in the order of Australia's trading partners.[citation needed]