Australia to invoke ANZUS treaty and assist US if North Korea attacks

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Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force Unit 991 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on Nov. 21, 2014. Reuters/KCNA

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared that Australia will join the conflict if North Korea attacks the United States. The nation will once again summon the ANZUS security treaty if that happens.

The Aussie leader said the US has no stronger ally than Australia. “We have an ANZUS agreement and if there is an attack on Australia or the United States, each of us will come to the other's aid," he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

Turnbull said he wanted it to be clear that if North Korea launches an attack against the US, then the ANZUS treaty will be invoked and Australia will come to help its ally. His declaration signals a strengthening of the government's position after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop stated that Australia only had an "obligation to consult” under the ANZUS alliance. On Thursday, Turnbull spoke with US Vice President Mike Pence and said that everyone understood Australia's commitment to the US was "absolutely rock-solid.”

Fire and fury

Turnbull’s commitment to help the US comes as US President Donald Trump threatened to unleash "fire and fury" on the rogue state. North Korea said that “only absolute force can work on him.”

Former Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have called for Australia to urgently consider missile defence shield. But Turnbull pushed back the idea. "The current advice from Defence to the government is that they do not consider that there is a benefit to deploy a system such as the THAAD system - terminal high altitude area defence, bit of a mouthful - for defence of Australian territory,” he said.

The ANZUS treaty was invoked only once during the leadership of former Prime Minister John Howard in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks against New York and Washington. It was signed in 1951 by Australia, the US and New Zealand, but New Zealand withdrew in the 1980s.

The treaty is slammed by critics, who argue it would only put the country’s security at risk. Last month, North Korea demonstrated it can launch ICBMs that have the range to reach northern Australia, according to experts’ assessments.

US media reported that the US Defence Intelligence Agency estimated that North Korea now has a miniaturised nuclear warhead to place atop the missiles. North Korea has warned that it is devising a plan to fire up to four missiles to land in the waters around the Pacific island of Guam.

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