FORMER Australian prime minister Paul Keating has warned that North Korea won't abandon its nuclear weapons since it would probably mean the end of the regime.
Mr Keating told Fairfax Media that the West should come to terms with this new reality and seek to contain the threat.
His intervention comes after a heightened war of words between US President Donald Trump and the rogue state.
Mr Trump threatened "fire and fury" against North Korea on Tuesday. He continued the bellicose rhetoric all week and on Friday tweeted that the US military was "locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely".
"I have long believed, especially after the unprovoked Western attack on Iraq and the ransacking of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, that North Korea would not desist from the full development of its nuclear weapons program, despite threats and sanctions from the West and even from China," said Mr Keating, who has disagreed strongly with the language and approach being taken by Mr Trump.
He told Fairfax Media: "I said in April, we should regard North Korea as a full and capable nuclear weapons state - a state that would, in future, need to be contained, in the way the Soviet Union was contained during the Cold War. Developments since April have only confirmed my view."
"More than that, it may be, that because the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea has, in a sense, become the raison d'etre of the state, were Kim Jong-un and his generals to agree to the West's demands, they may not politically survive that acquiescence."
"The moral in this is that all nuclear proliferation is bad and dangerous, particularly in the hands of outlier regimes like North Korea. We knew this from the moment the Manhattan Project succeeded in 1945."
Mr Keating's intervention came as current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared Australia would assist the US if it was attacked by North Korea.
Mr Keating criticised that pledge as well as comments by fellow former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott that Australia should pursue a missile defence system against North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles.
When asked if a missile shield was an option, he said: "I think this is more than debatable. The offending missiles would approach their targets at something like Mach 20, a phenomenal speed. We could never know, until the fatal event, whether a missile defence system would effectively work, or work in respect of each and every missile."
"A more worldly and competent foreign and defence policy is by far the preferred first line of defence - rather than the default position of relying on expensive but problematic hardware."
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