NZ not immune from North Korea threat - English

North Korean cyber attacks do pose a threat to New Zealand and other countries, Prime Minister Bill English says. Photo: Sam Sachdeva.

Prime Minister Bill English has backed tough talk against North Korea, saying recent cyber attacks show New Zealand is not immune from the actions of the rogue state.

The UN Security Council has met behind closed doors this week to discuss the country’s latest missile test, with US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley saying the world needed to take a strong stand against North Korea and any countries backing it.

English, who is currently in Japan, said the threat posed by North Korea was on the minds of many in the country, as he heard at a meeting with some Japanese MPs.

“We’ve got a sense here of the real anxiety in Japan about developments in North Korea and we can understand that given their proximity, and we want to see any action from China and the US, Japan or the United Nations that’s going to help resolve the tension without conflict.”

While Japan was at immediate risk of a missile attack, North Korea’s provocative attitude and unpredictability meant it was also a threat to countries like New Zealand.

“In New Zealand we always feel a bit safer because we’re so far away, out of the reach of missiles for instance, but cyber attacks can come from anywhere.

“Our longer term interest though is in a stable region where we conduct a lot of the trade which is the basis of our jobs and incomes at home, and we would stand alongside our long-term friends like Japan and the US, looking for a resolution to these tensions that does not involve conflict, because any conflict would be destabilising.”

There has been speculation that North Korea may have been behind the recent WannaCry ransomware attack, and English said it was likely that the country had targeted New Zealand with cyber attacks.

“They’re a rogue state, they do all sorts of things that most governments don’t do.

“I assume we get those attacks, our job is to make sure we’re set up as well as possible to deal with such attacks.”

However, New Zealand had spent “a lot of time and money” developing systems to deal with the general threat of cyber attacks and was in a position to combat them.