The North Korean regime has lashed out at Australia, describing its participation in current military exercises with the US and South Korea as “a suicidal act of inviting disaster”.
The North Koreans also targeted Malcolm Turnbull’s recent statements when he said that if the US came under attack from North Korea, Australia would be involved in its defence under ANZUS.
Turnbull hit back on Monday at the Pyongyang statement, saying North Korea had no regard for the welfare of its own population, the security and good relations with its neighbours, or international law.
Australia has about 25 Defence Force personnel involved in this week’s regular Ulchi-Freedom Guardian war games. The Australians have command-and-control responsibilities.
The North Korean statement from a spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs, reported by the state news agency KCNA, described Turnbull’s remarks about ANZUS as “reckless”.
Meanwhile, it said, Australia’s defence minister and “the military brass hat” had officially announced Australian troops would participate in the joint military exercises.
“Not long after the Australian prime minister had stated that they would join in the aggressive moves of the US, even referring to ANZUS which exists in name only, the Australian military announced that they would dispatch their troops to the aggressive nuclear exercises of the US.
"This is a suicidal act of inviting disaster as it is an illustration of political immaturity unaware of the seriousness of the current situation,” the statement said.
It said the “great irony is that the Australian premier, who had once condemned the military option for confrontation of Trump that it will have destructive consequences, made U turn in his stand at the admonition of the US, taking no account of Australia’s own interests”.
Australia had followed America into the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the “war on terrorism”. “But heavy loss of lives and assets were all that it got in return”, the statement said.
“The Australian government had better devote time and energy to maintaining peace of its own country, instead of forgetting the lessons learned in the past and joining the US in the moves for nuclear war.
"Countries like Australia that join the military adventure against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], blindly following the US, will never avoid the counter-measures of justice by the DPRK,” it said.
Turnbull said Australia called on all countries “to redouble their efforts”, including through implementing Security Council resolutions, “to bring North Korea to its senses and end its reckless and dangerous threats to the peace of our region and the world”.
Australia’s defence minister, Marise Payne, last week said Australia had played a small role in the exercises since 2010 and “given their regularity and history, they should not be seen in any way as a provocative exercise”.
The exercises, which date from the 1970s, have perennially roused North Korean anger. They come this year amid the extremely high tension between the US and Pyongyang. North Korea has said that with the current drill the US is “pouring gasoline on fire”.
The drills, involving land, sea and air, run from Monday until August 31, with tens of thousands of defence personnel from the US and South Korea participating.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said “this right now is an exercise to make certain that we’re ready to defend South Korea and our allies over there. And because of the specific circumstance, we want it to be a … heavy command post exercise.”
He said North Korea knew it was a fully defensive exercise “whatever they may say for public consumption”. “We’re very transparent in what we’re doing just to avoid miscalculation.”
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra