Will Australia Back U.S. Against North Korean Nuclear Threats?

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that Australia will honour the ANZUS Treaty, and ally with the United States in any conflict arising between the U.S. and North Korea. North Korea has repeatedly threatened the United States with nuclear attacks over the last few months and has now threatened Australia and Britain, warning them not to become involved.

Nonetheless, Turnbull announced that Australia will be supporting the U.S. in the case of war, referencing the ANZUS Treaty in his claims that “In terms of defence, we are joined at the hip.” He also encouraged all nations to “redouble their efforts, including through implementation of agreed UN 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.”

North Korea responded to the statement, saying: “We solemnly warn not only the US and the puppet group but also satellites, including the UK and Australia, which are taking advantage of the present war manoeuvres against the North, that they would face a miserable end if they join in.” As well, North Korea is claiming that Australia committing soldiers to U.S. and South Korean defence force is a “suicidal act.”

Meanwhile, the ANZUS Treaty was signed in 1951 in the name of protecting the Pacific region. The military defence agreement requires the signatories to “consult together” and “act to meet the common danger” in the event of a threat.

Furthermore, “Whether we like it or not, Australia would be dragged into a conflict on the Korean Peninsula because of the critical role of Pine Gap in US military operations against North Korea,” explains Professor Richard Tanter, a Senior Research Associate at the Nautilus Institute and Honorary Professor at Melbourne University. “The Australian government’s strategic response has for a long time been compliance with whatever constitutes United States policy of the day. In the hands of President Trump, this places the future of both the Korean Peninsula and Australia in the hands of a deeply delusional narcissist who is incapable of comprehending the consequences of his actions.”

In contrast to the Prime Minister’s definitive words of Australian assisting the U.S., Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has made several less committal statements regarding Australia’s obligation to become involved in U.S. nuclear war. “As far as the ANZUS Alliance is concerned, that is an obligation to consult. But of course, we have been in constant discussion with our friends in the United States,” she said.

On the other side of politics, Green’s leader, Richard Di Natale, has widely criticized Turnbull and called for a military break between Australia and U.S. “Malcolm Turnbull by backing Donald Trump has just put a target on our back […] What we’ve got is two dangerous, paranoid and unhinged world leaders goading each other into a conflict which puts the very survival of each and every person on the planet at risk. If there was ever a clearer example of why Australia needs to ditch the US alliance and develop an independent, non-aligned foreign policy, this is it.”

As such, with U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea, and North Korea relaying a detailed plan to launch missiles aimed just off the coast of U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, nuclear war is certainly a real threat. According to Professor Tanter, a war would be “likely to result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Koreans, with a high likelihood of uncontrollable escalation to involve regional conflict.” A conflict which Australia would, according to Malcolm Turnbull, assuredly be involved in.

Eleanor Goodbourn