The case of John Short, 75-year-old Christian missionary now being detained in North Korea for allegedly distributing banned religious materials in the country, might be used as leverage for Australia to reopen North Korea's embassy in Canberra. Korea specialist at the Australian National University, Leonid Petrov, told The Australian.
The reopening of North Korea's embassy was halted as a result of North Korea's nuclear testing activity in 2013.
Mr Petrov said that Mr Short might be asked to plead guilty of his charges publicly, but because of religious passion which all missionaries are known for, Mr Short might not be talked into making a public confession.
"But I doubt that a missionary such as John Short is likely to succumb to pressure by a regime which he abhors," Mr Petrov told The Australian.
Mr Petrov said that Mr Short's plight in the country can worsen by the fact that an Australian, former High Court judge Michael Kirby, led the current UN inquiry about North Korea's human rights violations.
At present, Australia had been in difficult situation negotiating Mr Short's case as Australia does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea and had been relying on Sweden to handle the case.
"Hundreds of Australians go to North Korea each year both for business and -- sooner or later this was bound to happen. It would much better in this case if we had an ambassador in Pyongyang," Mr Petrov added.
Meanwhile, Australia's foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said in a statement that Australia is still clueless as to where Mr Short was being detained.
Ms Bishop is in the Philippines for the yearly Tour of ASEAN Nations.
"We have made attempts through the Swedish counterparts to establish how he is, where he is and I'm waiting for reports on that so I am rather limited by what I can inform you," Ms Bishop told the press in the Philippines.
Ms Bishop also admitted that she has yet to speak with Karen Short, Mr Short's wife.
Back in Sydney, Prime Minister Tony Abbott advised traveling Aussies to always observe the laws of the countries they are traveling to.
"If you are in another country, be careful to obey their laws. If you're in trouble, the Australian government is there to do its best to help," Mr Abbott said.
North Korea has yet to make statements about Mr Short.
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