Text Only | Disarmament Diplomacy | Disarmament Documentation | ACRONYM Reports
back to the acronym home page
WMD Possessors
About Acronym

Proliferation in Parliament

Back to Proliferation in Parliament, Summer 2009

Westminster Parliament

North Korea

Oral Questions

Written Statements and Questions

North Korea

Oral Questions

North Korea, House of Lords Oral Question, 4 Jun 2009 : Column 298

Asked By Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Governments of China and Russia to encourage a united response to the decision of the North Korean Government to conduct an underground nuclear explosion, to fire six short-range missiles, and to revoke the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare a non-financial interest as chairman of the All-Party British-North Korea Parliamentary Group.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, we are working with UN Security Council partners including China and Russia to secure a robust resolution in response to the nuclear test carried out by the DPRK on 25 May. This includes action in New York as well as in capitals. What has happened is a breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1718 and we have strongly condemned the DPRK Government for their action. The DPRK’s

4 Jun 2009 : Column 299

decision to fire short-range missiles and the threat to “rip up” the 1953 armistice agreement is provocative and will further damage regional stability.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Does he recall that, when the armistice was signed in 1953 at the end of the Korean War, 3 million people had died, including 1,000 British servicemen? Did he note the figures from the report that my noble friend Lady Cox and I sent to him following our visit there in February of this year that the United Nations estimates that some 400,000 people have been executed by the regime, that 200,000 are in the camps and that 2 million Koreans died in North Korea during the 1990s as a result of the famine? Should not North Korea’s decision last week to revoke the 1953 armistice underline the urgent need for a concerted effort to prevent a repetition of a major war and the inevitable exodus of refugees into China—that is certainly disturbing the minds of Chinese diplomats at present—and for engagement in a Helsinki-style process? In the present dangerous climate, would not a declaration by the United States of a willingness to establish a diplomatic presence, as we have done in Pyongyang, and of the need to create a treaty to end the war be the first steps in a Helsinki-style process of engagement?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, made an important report after they returned from North Korea, which emphasised the need, as the noble Lord has done again in his Question, to balance the sticks of sanctions against the carrots of diplomatic engagement. Fundamentally, that remains the right twin track. Obviously, in the face of such extraordinary provocation by the regime and such a direct threat to regional stability, this is perhaps not the moment to be talking about the Helsinki engagement track. There must be a firm response, but over time we must return to engagement, because this is in every sense an outlaw regime, which is doing appalling things to its citizens outside the limelight of global public opinion.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, while we are meeting here this morning, two journalists are on trial in Pyongyang, having been arrested on the border with China after reporting on the flow of refugees into China and the terrible fate awaiting those who are forcibly returned, who are regularly imprisoned and tortured? Can he inform the House whether our excellent ambassador in Pyongyang is monitoring that trial and working with other members of the international community to try to ensure that those journalists are not used as political pawns in the present confrontation over nuclear issues?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, let me reassure the noble Baroness that we certainly are monitoring the trial and have been following it closely. I think that Europe—not Britain alone—has some role as a bridge builder in the context of the DPRK, but we should not consider our influence to be more important than it is. This is a situation where the so-called contact group of six—the five outsiders being neighbours, with the exception of the US—probably has more direct influence on these issues than we do.

4 Jun 2009 : Column 300

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we appreciate very much the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, on North Korea and the point about the need for twin tracks. However, have we not now reached the point where the six-party diplomacy has been brutally rebuffed by North Korea, which clearly has no intention of abiding by it at all? On the stick side of greater pressures, we should be mobilising and helping with the responsible efforts made by China and Russia, because they are the countries that will be most hurt by North Korea continuing on its wild course. Does the noble Lord accept that now really is the time to think about far greater examination of North Korean cargos and shipping, much more effort to stop North Korean arms exports and even travel bans on North Koreans so that serious pressure is imposed on this horrid little country?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, first, China and Russia are very engaged at the moment in crafting a sanctions resolution in New York and they are very much taking the lead in advising on which sanctions steps are practical to take and which, in the eyes of China in particular, might further aggravate the situation and become a casus belli that would further escalate the situation. I think that we have to defer to China’s judgment, in particular, on some of this because, as was said earlier, it is the country that would receive the influx of refugees and be most hit by a collapse of the regime or a renewed war. Secondly, yes, we need to hit hard against this provocation, but we also need to remember that there is a pattern to this. Missile and even nuclear tests have happened repeatedly and therefore the need for engagement remains important. Even Henry Kissinger, in an article yesterday, recommended that we try to keep the diplomatic track alive.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, perhaps on this day it might be appropriate to ask the Minister whether he agrees that North Korea, together with Burma, is the most sovereign country in the world, that UKIP members would clearly be happy to move there and that other countries have compromised their sovereignty by international co-operation to a much greater level. Having said that, I ask him to explain to us how we cope with a country that clearly depends on paranoia about the outside world to maintain its sovereignty. Is there any way that we, together with other countries, can promote cultural dialogue, with visits of one sort of another, to demonstrate that the outside world is not a threat to North Koreans and that the hostile approach to the outside world that keeps them going is self-defeating for them as well as for us?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, there is a balance between trying to keep engagement going and not allowing the regime to use its provocations and our reaction to feed its political base via paranoia. Ensuring that engagement keeps the lights on in the country is key. We were continuing English language training there, for example, and we continue to support the UN in its development and technical assistance programmes, but equally we cannot allow North Korea or the world to believe that this kind of flagrant threat to international peace can be left unanswered.

Written Statements and Questions

North Korea: Nuclear Power, Written Questions, 8 Jun 2009 : Column 693W

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on whether the plutonium production reactor at Yonbyong in North Korea was based on the published blueprints of the first generation Magnox reactors developed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority; what recent discussions he has had with the International Atomic Energy Agency on that reactor; and what representations he has made to the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on its announcement on the testing of a nuclear device.

Bill Rammell: We do not know whether the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has drawn on plans of British reactors in the production of its own reactors. The reactor at Yongbyon, while much smaller, has generic similarities to certain UK Magnox reactors, design information for which has been in the public domain for over 30 years.

The International Atomic Energy Authority provides regular reports to its board of governors, of which we are a member, on its activities in the DPRK. In addition to public statements from my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, I expressed the Government's strong condemnation of the nuclear test to the DPRK ambassador to London on 25 May 2009 and again on 1 June 2009. Our ambassador in Pyongyang made representations in DPRK to the Director Europe at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 2 June 2009 to reiterate our concerns. We are working with partners at the UN Security Council to deliver a strong response to the test.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Written Ministerial Statement, 1 Jun 2009 : Column 1WS

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I made clear, publicly, on 25 May, we strongly condemn the nuclear test carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). This action was wrong, misguided, dangerous, and a clear

1 Jun 2009 : Column 2WS

breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1718 (2006). It will undermine prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula and do nothing for North Korea’s security. By carrying out this test in the face of united efforts by members of the international community to bring peace and security to the Korean peninsula, North Korea will find itself even more isolated and scorned by the international community. T he Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell) expressed our strong condemnation of the nuclear test to the DPRK ambassador to London on 25 May, and will meet him again today to underline our concerns.

North Korea’s action in conducting this nuclear test represents a clear challenge to the security of neighbouring countries, and to international security. It also gives rise to further concerns about proliferation. DPRK’s actions since 25 May in testing short-range missiles and threatening to end the Armistice Agreement of 1953 are provocative and aggressive.

In conducting this nuclear test, the DPRK authorities have chosen to ignore not only the Security Council’s demands but also the repeated warnings from many Governments, including the UK, to desist from provocative actions. The six-party talks process offers a forum for discussion of legitimate issues between the countries involved. But North Korea has walked away from these talks. They remain the right vehicle for the long-term goal of ensuring stability on the Korean peninsula. In the meantime we support active steps to contain the danger.

The UN Security Council has already issued a very clear statement of condemnation and opposition to the nuclear test. The UK is now working with Security Council partners to develop a tough new resolution imposing sanctions, which will increase the pressure on DPRK following previous resolutions.

If North Korea is to take its rightful place within the international community, it needs to respect international norms, abide by its international obligations as set out in successive UN Security Council Resolutions and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, end its aggressive policies towards its region and the rest of the world, and engage constructively with international partners, including through the six-party talks process. The Government and people of North Korea have much to gain from such re-engagement with the international community.

The nuclear test also highlights the critical importance of revitalising the non-proliferation treaty and securing entry into force of the comprehensive test ban treaty. The international community needs to demonstrate that it does not tolerate proliferation of this sort.

Back to Proliferation in Parliament, Summer 2009

Back to the Top of the Page

© 2009 The Acronym Institute.