TEHRAN, YJC. -- Former prime minister and foreign minister Kevin Rudd has told officers of Beijing's main defence academy that the world is looking to China to use its influence to quell the aggression of North Korea.
In a speech this week to China's National Defence University, reported by The Australian today, Mr Rudd said North Korea's nuclear program poses a serious threat to China's relations with its neighbours.
The speech was made two days before North Korea announced that it had formally entered into a "state of war" with South Korea.
In the latest in a string of pronouncements from Pyongyang and tough warnings from Seoul and Washington, a government statement from North Korea said: "As of now, inter-Korea relations enter a state of war and all matters between the two Koreas will be handled according to wartime protocol."
The White House said it took the new warning seriously but added that Pyongyang's threats were following a familiar pattern.
The Australian said Mr Rudd's Beijing address had coincided with the United States' confirmation on Thursday that it had sent two B-2 stealth bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, to drop munitions on a target range on a South Korean island.
Mr Rudd told his audience of officers that the diplomatic efforts of all nations but China had failed to persuade North Korea against its shows of aggression.
But while China had gone to considerable lengths to try to change North Korea's behaviour, Pyongyang had rewarded it by launching its third underground test during China's Spring Festival holiday.
And while China was announcing its new leadership to the world, North Korea had declared its renunciation of the 1953 armistice.
Pyongyang's antics threatened China's foreign policy objectives because Asian nations were beginning to co-operate on regional anti-ballistic missile defences, which could work against China as well as North Korea, Mr Rudd said.
North Korea's threats to bomb the US and its allies and to reduce the South Korean capital of Seoul to a smouldering ruin had come as some in Japan and South Korea were pushing for their countries to develop nuclear weapons of their own.
"Our Chinese friends would also appreciate that other countries of the region have profound concerns about both the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program of North Korea and its inflammatory declaratory language concerning its preparedness unilaterally to use armed force against the South and other 'unnamed aggressors' in Asia," Mr Rudd said.
He added: "The most immediate and significant threat to a new form of strategic co-operation between Beijing and Washington, and between Beijing and the rest of the region, lies in the North Korean nuclear program.
"North Korea's nuclear posture is of itself causing the US and its allies in the region to enhance their co-operation on ballistic missile defence in order to counter the North Korean threat.
"Such ballistic missile defence co-operation also of course has wider implications for China's national and security interests beyond the Korean Peninsula.
"China's own global foreign policy standing is suffering and will continue to suffer as a result of North Korean adventurism."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard will next week lead a delegation to China that includes ministers Bob Carr, Craig Emerson and Bill Shorten for talks on trade, security and clean energy.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr condemned the latest round of threats and said Australia was considering imposing more sanctions on the rogue state.
Senator Carr said in a statement that reports from the Australian Embassy in Seoul suggest there is no immediate evidence of increased military preparations by North Korea.
"Despite this, North Korea continues to pose a genuine threat to the safety of millions of people in our region," he said.
Senator Carr has welcomed calls by China and Russia for restraint by all parties, as well as commitments by the United States regarding the defence of South Korea and Japan.
Senator Carr has urged all nations to ensure existing measures are strictly enforced and said Australia is considering further "autonomous sanction" on North Korea.