Labor has backed the United States to deal with the “rogue” state of North Korea, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also called on China to play a larger role in addressing the security threat posed by its erratic neighbour.
Mr Shorten, who described Donald Trump during the US election campaign as “barking mad” and “entirely unsuitable to be leader of the free world”, said the US was vital to maintaining order in the Pacific despite some of the incendiary language of the new president.
“I know these days there is some concern about the United States. I have to say, when you look at the role that the United States’ security plays in our region I am grateful for their presence and certainly I regard the American alliance with Australia as being very important, especially at times of heightened uncertainty that the North Korean regime presents,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
“I for one am grateful that the Americans do contribute so much to security in the Pacific region.”
Fears of a nuclear confrontation have been high in the lead-up to the 105th anniversary celebration of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founder and Mr Trump has tweeted his thoughts that the hermit kingdom is a “menace” and “if China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”.
Defence Minister Marise Payne has advocated a “diplomatic” resolution over the use of force.
Tensions rose further on Sunday after North Korea attempted another missile test but the weapon failed shortly after takeoff, embarrassing erratic leader Kim Jong-un.
Mr Shorten said the right response to the missile failure was to “watch what is going” but underlined the critical role of China in resolving the crisis.
“I’m not going to comment on every personal comment that comes out of the mouth of the Americans but what I do recognise that if you want to talk about provocative conduct, I think it starts with the North Koreans,” he said.
“We do need, I think, countries in the region, including China, to exert what influence they have over North Korea. There’s a good opportunity here for China to demonstrate as it emerges in the world that it can have positive influence on its close neighbours.
“I’m under no illusions, the North Korean regime is a rogue government and they are a serious threat to stability.”
Last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said China in particular could bring pressure to bear on North Korea.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald