Ambassador warns about dangers of North Korea’s nuclear weapons
The United States Ambassador to Samoa and New Zealand, Scott Brown, says a nuclear-armed North Korea has the potential to create big problems for the Pacific and New Zealand.
Brown made the point during an interview with Leith Huffadine of Stuff about rising tensions between the United States of America and North Korea over their nuclear weapon programme.
The Ambassador said he didn't think many people understood the implications of the stand-off between Trump and Kim Jong Un.
"They understand 'gosh we're so far away and it really doesn't affect us', well, it does if he [Kim Jong Un] decides to drop a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean,” he said.
"The fallout could come here. It could affect the fishing and all the sealife. It'd dramatically affect climate and economy and the ability to travel freely in that region without being contaminated so yeah, it does affect New Zealand."
Brown said the NZ Government's "rock solid" support of the US was to be congratulated. The country had a lot of credibility as a Five Eyes member and a respected nation in the Pacific region. Our nuclear-free status added to that, he said.
"They [the NZ government] are playing an active role in trying to inform people in their region... but more importantly, the fact they are not afraid to speak up - being a smaller country and kind of isolated - but always being in the forefront of criticisms has emboldened other smaller countries and other larger countries to get involved.
"I think indirectly, along with other efforts, it's helping the UN Security Council votes - three in a row - every little bit helps and we're excited, grateful to get the assistance as the United States but more importantly I think the world is grateful too, because this is a world effort... it's affecting everybody."
At the same time, he didn't think Kiwis realised the respect they commanded.
"When I'm speaking to average Kiwis... what I try to convey is... the role you play in the world. I'm not sure if people really get it yet.
"What I try to tell New Zealanders is 'listen, you guys play a special role in the world because you are a Five Eyes partner, you are a trading leader, you do have certain positions on nuclear and other issues and you do so much philanthropically in the region... when you guys speak, when the Kiwi speaks, it actually has a greater amount of respect in the world'
"The average Kiwi, I'm not sure if they understand that. They should really be proud of that fact."
Brown said he believes the rogue state still has a chance to be part of the global community - it if wants to be.
Kim Jong Un would be "welcomed", but instead was focused on being a "bully".
"He can become an economic engine like South Korea and like Vietnam and Singapore, they have the tools, the resources, the people. You know obviously they have the determination.
"They could raise the standards of living, they could have a conventional army to protect their interests, but he wants to do it in a different way.
"He wants to be belligerent and bully people in the region and the world and he wants to basically export terrorism around the world and it's not going to be accepted by good people of the world."
Brown described Kim Jong Un's actions as "sabre-rattling".
"That's the issue, you have somebody who is out there stirring the pot, has some new toys, some new weapons and wants to got out and basically sabre-rattle and I think it's wrong."
But he wasn't happy with criticism of US President Donald Trump's comments on social media.
"A couple of people [at a recent event] said 'your president's tweets are really instigating things'.
"I said 'I'm sorry, Sir, with all due respect, it's not my president's tweets, it's the fact you have a leader, an isolated, desperate leader [Kim Jong Un], who's lobbing ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] and threatening to nuclearise them and basically attack and wipe people off the face of the earth, that's the issue'. Let's not get sidetracked here.
"Now, you may not like how my president tweets or the things he says, but I would argue that actions speak louder than words, because his leadership has emboldened South Korea and Japan and given them strength to know that their ally, the United States, will be there, as well as other countries in that region...
"His leadership has enabled three security council votes in a row to condemn North Korea and put the sanctions in place and work with China and Russia and other major countries to really finally, once and for all, put the economic squeeze on him to shut off the money train to the missile development and use.
"So you may not like how he's doing it, but the fact that he's doing it and it's getting results speaks for itself."
The US hadn't declared war, Brown said. Instead, if the US was forced to defend itself there would be repercussions.
"I find it really fascinating that you have a leader like him [Kim Jong Un], who's basically telling my president to be considerate of whom he speaks... this is a guy that actually, his regime kidnaps innocent people and ransoms them off and has human rights violations that are just unspeakable, and he's lobbing rockets and missiles around the region in complete and total violation of every UN sanction that's been in place for ever.
"And he's giving lessons to us and criticising us and the Chinese media. I find it humorous to say the least."
The US goal for North Korea was simple, he said.
"The goal is to make sure that North Korea does not become a nuclear power and start exporting nuclear materials and nuclear weapons and terrorism around the region and the world. That's crystal clear."
"It's going to take the entire world, every country, every person, every... I don't care, Democrat, Republican, socialist, communist dictators - any people who care about their families and their kids, who want to make sure that region and our world doesn't become destabilised needs to work together to basically make sure this guy... becomes a member of the community and not.. the person that upsets everything in the world order.