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Australia Must Be Cautious About Committing To Conflict With North Korea

It's high time we developed the courage to act independently and prioritise our own national interests.

18/08/2017 1:36 PM AEST | Updated 18/08/2017 1:37 PM AEST
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
"Our government has a responsibility to our defence personnel not to rush into this."

Malcolm Turnbull's rush to put the Australian military at the disposal of Donald Trump echoes John Howard's enthusiasm to go into Iraq in 2003. More than a million Iraqis died in that conflict and over 4 million were displaced. With the current U.S./North Korea issue, once again there are many lives at risk, and underlying reasons as to why we are on the brink of war.

Much is said about North Korea's missiles. But a blind eye is turned to America's multiple ICBM tests, ongoing aggressive military exercises and the deployment of the THAAD missile defence system, (which is far more effective as a forward radar gathering intelligence than providing meaningful defence of Seoul).

Kim Jong-un's offers to start negotiations if the U.S. ceases military exercises have been ignored. In 1994 the United States and the DPRK reached a stable arrangement, until the United States suspended talks in 2002 when evidence emerged North Korea was pursuing uranium enrichment technology. The Russians and the Chinese governments have urged parties to negotiate once again, as has our foreign minister Julie Bishop.

Going to war should be a carefully considered decision; not one made during a radio interview at a politically opportune moment.

When politicians threaten war, it is extremely important to analyse exactly who will benefit from military conflict. War would certainly provide a distraction from the Trump campaign's Russian connections and investigations. War with North Korea may let Malcolm Turnbull shore up his credentials as a 'strong leader'. For Kim Jong–un it may unite a starving country behind his massive military build-up.

Here in Australia, yet again the ANZUS treaty is overblown. The treaty only commits the U.S. and Australia to "consult" with one another. The commitment to "act" is very vague. America was a tremendous ally in the Second World War, but we must remember they only stepped in when U.S. interests were attacked at Pearl Harbour.

New Zealand has managed to remain a U.S. ally without being 'joined at the hip' to the U.S. military. Our government has a responsibility to our defence personnel not to rush into this. In addition any conflict would threaten the lives of 30,000 South Koreans close to the border in the first few days, with many more to follow.

Going to war should be a carefully considered decision; not one made during a radio interview at a politically opportune moment.

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We need War Powers reform, so instead of a 'Captain's Call' it is debated and voted on by both houses of parliament. In addition we need better diplomacy. Australia has cut funding to our diplomatic service, but expert diplomacy is both cost effective and can save literally millions of lives. Australian diplomacy worked well in both Bougainville and Cambodia, and it can again.

Finally Australia should sign the UN Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty (NWPT), which opens for signature on the 20th of September. Both the ALP and the Greens recognise the NWPT is a critical next step towards nuclear disarmament , as do the vast majority of Australians (73 percent support in a recent IPSOS poll).

Allan Gyngell, ex head of ONA, writes of Australia's "Fear of Abandonment". It's high time we developed the courage to act independently and prioritise our own national interests.

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