16 Jan 2013

Reopening of Nth Korean embassy welcomed

12:08 pm on 16 January 2013

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has welcomed a move by North Korea to re-establish an embassy in Canberra, saying it would enable Australia to register its concerns about human rights.

The embassy was closed in January 2008.

Senator Carr on Wednesday confirmed that Pyongyang was seeking to reopen the mission.

"We would welcome the opening of an embassy," he told ABC TV. "It would enable us to express our very strong concerns, our deep concerns, about what we see as a catastrophic position on human rights."

Senator Carr said North Korea operated a network of concentration camps like a Gulag, where some 200,000 political opponents of the regime are being held in appalling conditions.

AAP reports Australia initially established diplomatic relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 1974.

The DPRK opened an embassy in Canberra in December 1974 with Australia reciprocating in Pyongyang in April 1975.

In November 1975, North Korea abruptly withdrew its diplomats and expelled the Australian mission.

Relations resumed in 2000 with the DPRK embassy in Canberra reopening in 2002.

Australia's embassy in Seoul represents Australian interests in North Korea.

AAP reports Australia has long imposed sanctions over North Korea's nuclear tests. Trade is negligible although Australia has provided humanitarian aid of around $A5 million a year.