NZ 'in a very difficult place' if war breaks out with North Korea - expert

An expert in international relations says New Zealand will be put in a very difficult position if conflict breaks out with North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed in his new year message that his nuclear weapons ambitions are now realised, with the entire US in range and a launch button on his desk.

North Korea made rapid progress on its missile programme in 2017, and a former US admiral has warned that nuclear war with North Korea is now closer than it's ever been.

International relations expert at Victoria University, Yan Jackson, says if a conflict breaks out, New Zealand is going to be put in a very difficult place.

Under an agreement with the United Nations after the Korean War, New Zealand must maintain a presence on the peninsula.

New Zealand currently has eight troops in the south, the second highest number after America.

"If conflict happens, your choice may be to either renege on an agreement with the United Nations, or put troops in harm's way," Mr Jackson told 1 NEWS.

Winston Peters is one of only a few Western leaders who has been to North Korea. He visited in 2007 in a bid to persuade the country to dismantle its nuclear arms. 

While he has no plans to return, the Foreign Minister told 1 NEWS he wouldn't turn down an invitation.

"Well I don't want this to be misinterpreted as a suggestion by me. But we would do the best we could as a country," Mr Peters said.

Asked if that's "a yes", he said: "Well, the answer is yes." 

And he won't say whether the Government would send more troops if a conflict did break out.

"Oh look, this is purely hypothetical. If what we are trying to do is ensure that the question you're asking, never needs an affirmative answer." 

Any conflict would have an impact on New Zealand's trade in the region at the cost of trillions of dollars.

Mr Jackson said that cost would be felt everywhere, and New Zealand is no exception.

"That's separate from the fact that New Zealand is now in missile range of North Korea," he said.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said in a statement New Zealand's location makes the country less likely to be the target for any attack, but New Zealand has an all hazards approach to preparedness.

Recent reports that the rogue state plans to test anthrax-tipped ballistic missiles are ramping up tensions as a new year begins. 

A former US admiral has warned that nuclear war with North Korea is now closer than it's ever been. Source: 1 NEWS

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