New Zealand needs to be actively engaged with the Asia-Pacific region, and can help achieve regional peace and security, particularly through a multilateral approach and strong constructive relations with its neighbours. New Zealand recognises the Korean Peninsula’s significance, its relations with North Korea being primarily shaped by contentious issues such as the regime’s poor human rights record. Concerns over these are often shared and shaped by other allies and partners, particularly the ROK.
It is likely that relations will remain problematic, at least in the near-future. The North under the inexperienced Kim Jong-un has yet to show strong indications of undertaking significant liberalisation, moves towards complete and verifiable denuclearisation, and perhaps peaceful and gradual integration with the South. New Zealand must consider the impact of future possible scenarios for North Korea, including regime collapse and reunification. Moreover, the threat of ROK-DPRK conflict remains. The 2010 Defence White Paper refers to tensions on the Peninsula as likely to continue, any conflict having a serious impact on security and confidence in the wider region.28 Apart from the prospect of humanitarian relief, it is likely that New Zealand would consider the possible use of military force if requested or mandated by the UN in support of regional peace and security.
Achieving reunification on the Peninsula under democracy will be very challenging. Although it appears unlikely in the near-future, a unified, peaceful, democratic and strong Korea will have a major impact on international relations, and the ability to make a significant and positive contribution to the international community. Given regional peace, prosperity and stability are vital New Zealand interests, especially given New Zealand’s geographic location, limited capabilities and significance of trade, its strong relations with this Korea will be vital. Despite the major challenges, communication and interaction with North Korea are useful tools that can contribute to fostering mutual trust, transparency, and cooperation on the Peninsula.
28 Ministry of Defence, 2010. Defence White Paper 2010. Accessed 19 May 2012. Available from http://
http://www.beehive.govt.nz/feature/defence+white+paper+2010, November, p.30.
Paul Bellamy is most grateful for the kind cooperation of the interviewees (HE Noh Kwang-il, Patrick Rata and Rev Don Borrie). Interviews were conducted between August 2009 and November 2010. Comments reflect the personal opinions of interviewees, and are not necessarily those of their employers. The author is also most grateful for the comments expressed via correspondence. This article is primarily derived from his paper ‘A Fragile Relationship: New Zealand and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ and article ‘New Zealand and North Korea: limited ties, uncertain future’ (please see references).
Paul Bellamy has undertaken work for various international organisations and published in diverse areas, including co-leading an international study of human security. He is currently co-authoring a book on civil wars. With regard to Korea, he has published various articles, and visited South Korea sponsored by the Korea Foundation in 2011. His most recent work on New Zealand-North Korea relations focuses on the 1973 to 1989 period. Please note that the author does not belong to the Society, and the views expressed here are not necessarily those of his employer.