30 Aug 2017

PM discusses North Korean threat with Turnbull

6:22 pm on 30 August 2017

Prime Minister Bill English has spoken to his Australian counterpart about the threat posed by North Korea, but says no military options were discussed.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull  and NZ PM Bill English.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NZ PM Bill English at a meeting earlier this year. Photo: RNZ / Brad White

North Korea has inflamed tensions in the region this week, after firing a missile that travelled over northern Japan before crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

Mr English said he had contacted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, because Australia had a close relationship with both the United States and Japan.

"We both have a common concern that really when the pressure is on we need to see the US and particularly China acting in concert to bring this to, to relieve the tension with some sort of diplomatic initiative rather than a military one.

"I think there's been some real concern in Japan over the recent flight. I mean, people there were woken up in Hokkaido with a warning about a missile being fired.

"That's a deliberate and high-level provocation."

Pedestrians walk in front of a huge screen displaying a map of Japan (R) and the Korean Peninsula, in Tokyo.

Pedestrians walk in front of a huge screen displaying a map of Japan (R) and the Korean Peninsula, in Tokyo. Photo: AFP

Mr English said the tensions between North Korea and other countries were at a point where diplomatic pressure needed to be applied.

"To de-escalate tension, and tension that is at a level where small miscalculations could turn into real concerns.

"This is one of the bigger, now one of the highest levels of tensions around security in the Asia-Pacific that's been for some time."

There was no discussion about military action, or any requests for a military contribution from New Zealand, Mr English said.

He said he had not heard the speculation an island in the Pacific could be North Korea's next target.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said the United Nations was the place to respond to North Korea, working "co-operatively" with the international community.

"Of course what we're seeing with North Korea is incredibly concerning ... taking that multi-lateral response, using the United Nations as our mouthpiece, our voice, but making sure New Zealand's voice is heard in that environment".

When asked about the rhetoric of the US President Donald Trump, she said New Zealanders would expect that "cool heads" would prevail.

"That we certainly make sure that we take a calm considered approach and that goes for all world leaders."

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