Australia to send diplomatic mission to N. Korea

Australia will send a diplomatic mission to North Korea in the next few weeks to begin rebuilding ties, following a landmark deal in which the North promised to end its nuclear programs, the prime minister said Tuesday. Prime Minister John Howard made the announcement a few hours after talking with US President George W. Bush by phone about North Korea and other issues. "We're going to be sending a diplomatic group to North Korea in the not too distant future, the next few weeks, to put down some benchmarks about the restoration of our bilateral diplomatic relationship," Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "We want to go along with the agreement," he said. Australia has cautiously welcomed the denuclearization deal struck last week among North Korea, the United States and four other nations, noting that the North has gone back on promises in the past.