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North Korea

Volume 561: debated on Monday 15 April 2013

I would like to update the House on recent developments on the Korean peninsula and the action the Government are taking in response.

I am concerned by North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missile technology, and more recently by its frenetic and bellicose rhetoric. I am also concerned by the danger of miscalculation by the North Korean regime. The international response to this must be clear, united and calm.

UN Security Council Resolution 2094, adopted on 7 March in response to the nuclear test on 12 February, was agreed by consensus. This is a strong signal of the international community’s unity and resolve. The measures in this resolution provide the international community with the enhanced means to tackle North Korea’s illicit proliferation. In addition, the resolution makes clear that the UN Security Council would take “further significant measures” in the event of another North Korean launch or nuclear test.

G8 Foreign Ministers also discussed the international response to North Korea at our meeting last week. This resulted in a clear joint statement that included condemnation in the strongest possible terms of North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear and ballistic programmes, and we urged North Korea to engage in credible and authentic multilateral talks on denuclearisation. Foreign Ministers all agreed that North Korea must address these and other issues and co-operate fully with all relevant UN mechanisms. We made clear our support to the UNSCR commitment to take further significant measures in the event of a further launch or nuclear test by North Korea.

The statement of the G8 Foreign Ministers also expressed concern over the systematic and widespread human rights violations in North Korea. This echoed the agreement in the UN Human Rights Council on 21 March to establish a Commission of Inquiry on human rights abuses in North Korea. The fact that this inquiry was agreed without a vote again demonstrates the strong international consensus that North Korea cannot and should not continue on its current course.

We are working to ensure all states fully implement the latest UN Security Council resolution and have been speaking to international partners about the importance of this. The UK is not a member of the six-party talks, but we will remain in close touch with the US, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan on their approach towards North Korea. I have also spoken to the South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byun-se, where I welcomed South Korea’s measured approach to the situation and confirmed that the UK will continue to support our allies in the region.

In this call I stressed the importance of not responding to North Korean rhetoric. Our assessment remains that there has been no immediate increased risk or danger to those living in or travelling to either North or South Korea. We judge there is no immediate need to either change the level of our travel advice or draw down embassy staff, although we are keeping this under constant review and making regular factual updates to our travel advice.

The UK played a leading role in work to agree a co-ordinated and unified response by EU member states to the 10 April deadline set by North Korea for embassies to notify them of what assistance they would require should they wish to be evacuated from North Korea. We made sure that the EU took this opportunity to remind North Korea of its international obligations on proliferation. From our discussions with other Governments we do not believe any foreign embassy in Pyongyang is currently planning to close.

Our message to North Korea is clear. It has a choice, between constructive engagement with the international community, or further international action and isolation. The choice it is taking now will lead it to be a broken country, isolated from the rest of the world.