Prime Minister's comments will up the ante in a tense nuclear
stand-off with the rogue state. They came a day after Australia
signed up to an aggressive US-led strategy that could see the navy
within months intercepting North Korean ships suspected of
Responding to North Korea's latest threat to launch a nuclear war
if threatened by the US and its allies militarily, Mr Howard said
Australia and its allies would go to war with North Korea only as a
"The question of how we deal with North Korea is a very difficult
question ... we would like (the nuclear crisis) solved
diplomatically ... but we can't walk away from the issue.
"Nobody wants to go to war with anybody about anything ... it's
always very much a last resort thing and one to be avoided," Mr
Howard told Sydney radio.
Mr Howard's comments followed 11 countries, including Australia,
agreeing to intercept North Korean ships and aircraft suspected of
trafficking in weapons of mass destruction as part of a global
crackdown on the trade.
The 11 members of the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative
have agreed to start military training exercises from as early as
Mr Howard said while the interception plan was designed to
convince all rogue states to give up their weapons of mass
destruction, it would also bring pressure to bear on North Korea to
give up its nuclear program. "It would be wrong to see (an
interception force) as a ploy to send a warning shot to the North
"(But) if they (diplomatic and arms control measures) help to
build up the pressure on the North Koreans to behave in a more
reasonable fashion, then that's a good idea," Mr Howard said.
US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International
Security John Bolton, who is driving the interception plan, has
indicated it could be broadened to include more than the current 11
Mr Bolton said among the countries he would like to see sign up
were countries that allowed so-called flag-of-convenience ships.
Flags of convenience allow ships to operate outside shipping
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, said any legal
backing for interception of ships on the high seas should be sought
via the UN.
Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett said the strategy would fail
without South Korea and China, adding Australia was simply bowing to
the US again.