Whether we like it or not, Australia would be dragged into a conflict on the Korean Peninsula because of the critical role of Pine Gap in US military operations against North Korea.
Given the geography of Korea and the decades of military preparations of both sides, we could become a participant in a war likely to result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Koreans, with a high likelihood of uncontrollable escalation to involve regional conflict.
Informed commentators recognize that there is no military solution to this conflict, and talking is the only option to avoid unimaginable horror.
Difficult though it is to negotiate with North Korea, there is good reason to believe that its leaders are not bent on suicide. There are indications that negotiations could be possible, but they need to be genuine to have any chance of avoiding war.
The Australian government’s strategic response has for a long time been compliance with whatever constitutes United States policy of the day.
In the hands of President Trump, this places the future of both the Korean Peninsula and Australia in the hands of a deeply delusional narcissist who is incapable of comprehending the consequences of his actions.
The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap will play a critical role in both conventional and nuclear-armed U.S. attacks on North Korea.
Pine Gap hardwires Australia into US combat operations in Northeast Asia. Pine Gap’s tasking will now be very actively focussed on North Korea.
The logic of nuclear weapons, epitomized by the United States’ nuclear posture, and fully supported by compliant Australian governments, has led to North Korea’s successful path to nuclear weapons state status.
Its goal has clearly been to deter US from attempting regime change, rather than suicidal nuclear aggression.
It is time for Australia to take an independent stance urging the utmost caution on its nuclear-armed ally as well as on North Korea, and actively oppose any action leading to what would be a catastrophic outbreak of war.
But equally, the present crisis makes clear that doctrines of nuclear deterrence – by any country – hold the whole world to ransom, with deterrence failure inevitable in the long run.
It is clear that only the abolition of nuclear weapons will offer any chance of planetary safety.
The Australian government’s craven acceptance of US demands that its allies boycott the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons adopted at the United Nations indicates that we have no independent foreign policy.
Professor Richard Tanter, senior research associate at the Nautilus Institute and honorary professor in the School of Political and Social Sciences at Melbourne University.
Professor Tanter will address the issue ‘What would an independent Australian foreign policy look like?’ during the upcoming Independent and Peaceful Australia Network National Conference in Melbourne over the weekend of 8-10 September.