The apparent optimism surrounding the upcoming ‘season of summitry’ on the Korean Peninsula should be tempered by the fact that there are potential risks attached to engaging the North Korean leadership without preconditions. These include legitimising its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, alliance decoupling, and a serious deterioration in Asia’s strategic climate if the Trump-Kim summit fails to deliver concrete results.
Australian policy makers should look to develop a more integrated national approach to the Korean Peninsula. They should anticipate and prepare for a full range of possible outcomes. A clear definition and articulation of Australia’s considerable national interests in Northeast Asia—independent from those of the US—should be derived.
Initially, the Turnbull Government should begin a whole-of-government review, managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This process would identify and implement policy initiatives where Australia can pursue a distinctly national approach to safeguarding its long-term interests on the Korean Peninsula, including future bilateral relations with North Korea
At this potential geopolitical inflection point, the Australian government should be prepared to consider the widest scope of possible scenarios as a reference point for ongoing policy formulation and, more specifically, for managing Australia’s evolving strategies directed toward the Korean peninsula. In that context, Australia would be prudent to begin a whole-of-government review, managed by its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to identify and implement those policy areas where it could initiate and pursue a distinctly national approach to safeguarding its long-term interests on the Korean Peninsula, including future bilateral relations with North Korea.