Australia’s Embassy in Pyongyang (1975): A Diplomatic Failure

By Graeme S. Mount.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Recently declassified US and Australian documents reveal the story of Australia’s ill-fated embassy located in Pyongyang for six months in 1975. The government of Gough Whitlam believed that Australia should have diplomatic relations with all countries and that it could fill a diplomatic void with an embassy in Pyongyang. Whitlam and his associates anticipated benefits for Australia, Western countries in general, as well as for North Korea. Instead, diplomatic relations with North Korea limited Australian diplomatic options, antagonized Australia’s allies (none of which had recognized North Korea) and won no respect from Kim Il Sung and his associates. The article argues that both North Korea and Western countries lost an opportunity with the failure of this embassy but that given North Korea’s unconventional behavior and indifference to world opinion, opportunities for success were at best limited. It argues that universality is a fine principle of diplomacy, but that realistically it is not always practical.

Keywords: Australia, North Korea, Whitlam, Gough, Kim Il Sung

Global Studies Journal, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.153-164. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 614.287KB).

Prof. Graeme S. Mount

Professor of History Emeritus, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

In 1969, Professor Mount completed his Ph.D. in History at the University of Toronto and began to teach History at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. In 2005, he retired as Professor Emeritus. Books include An Introduction to Canadian-American Relations (Toronto: Methuen, 1984; second edition Toronto: Nelson, 1989); Invisible and Inaudible in Washington: US-Canadian Relations during the Cold War (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999); The Caribbean Basin: An International History (London and New York: Routledge, 1998); The Diplomacy of War: The Case of Korea (Montreal: Black Rose, 2004); 895 Days that Changed the World: The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford (Montreal: Black Rose, 2006).

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