Australia blocks North Korean plan to reopen embassy in response to latest nuclear test

Australia has indefinitely blocked North Korea's plans to reopen its embassy in the Australian capital because of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons testing.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr's spokesman Patrick Low said Thursday that the government told Pyongyang that the proposal was on hold while the United Nations Security Council considered its response to North Korea's third nuclear test on Feb. 12.

"We've advised them that in light of that, their proposal to open an embassy in Australia is suspended until further notice," Low said.

"Right now, while we as a member of the Security Council look at what the response will be, we're not proceeding with this proposal for a North Korean Embassy in Australia," he said.

"I wouldn't say it's abandoned. I wouldn't rule out the prospect of there ever being a North Korean Embassy. It's simply not being proceeded with at this point," he added.

North Korea first opened an embassy in Canberra in 2002 but closed it for financial reasons six years later.

Pyongyang approached the government in December with plans to send an ambassador. A team of diplomats was to fly to Canberra last month to search for an embassy site, but Australia cancelled the trip following the nuclear test.

Australia opened an embassy in Pyongyang in 1975 but it was shut down months later after Korean Korea expelled the diplomats for reasons never fully explained.

Since then, the Australian Embassy in Seoul has taken consular responsibility for North Korea.

Australia saw merit in North Korea re-establishing a diplomatic presence, but had not encouraged it to do so, Low said.

"There is some merit in that from our point of view because it would enable us to communicate with them more directly on human rights and other things," Low said.