Australia blocks North Koreans' visit over nuclear test

Reuters

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia has blocked a visit by North Korean diplomats seeking to reopen an embassy in Canberra because of the reclusive state's nuclear test this week, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Thursday.

North Korean officials had been due this weekend to look at possible embassy sites. Cash-strapped Pyongyang closed its mission in 2008 due to high costs.

North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday in defiance of U.N. resolutions, drawing condemnation from around the world.

"We postponed the arrival of North Korean diplomats in Australia as a gesture following this detonation," Carr told an oversight committee of parliament.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, is one of few Western countries to have diplomatic ties with North Korea which opened a Canberra embassy in May 2002.

But Australia, a rotating U.N. Security Council member, has been strongly critical of the nuclear tests and has helped drive international calls for tougher sanctions.

Carr said Australia still planned to let North Korea reestablish a diplomatic presence in Canberra.

"We still adhere to the view that there's value in having a North Korean diplomatic presence here," Carr said.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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