Australia and the Korean Crisis: Confronting the limits of influence?

Centre of Gravity Issue 40

Author/s (editor/s):

Andrew O'Neil, Brendan Taylor, William T. Tow

Publication year:


Publication type:

Discussion paper

In this Centre of Gravity paper, Professors O’Neil, Taylor and Tow argued that the apparent optimism surrounding the upcoming ‘season of summitry’ on the Korean Peninsula should be tempered by the fact that there are potential risks attached to engaging the North Korean leadership without preconditions. They argue these include legitimising its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, alliance decoupling, and a serious deterioration in Asia’s strategic climate if the Trump-Kim summit fails to deliver concrete results.

Building on a series of important policy roundtables in Australia, along with decades of experience, these three senior figures argue that Australian policy makers should look to develop a more integrated national approach to the Korean Peninsula. Policymakers should anticipate and prepare for a full range of possible outcomes. A clear definition and articulation of Australia’s considerable national interests in Northeast Asia—independent from those of the US—should be derived. Initially, the Turnbull Government should begin a whole-of-government review, managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This process would identify and implement policy initiatives where Australia can pursue a distinctly national approach to safeguarding its long-term interests on the Korean Peninsula, including future bilateral relations with North Korea.

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