North Korea has lodged a request with the Australian Government to reopen its embassy in Canberra, after it was closed more than four years ago.

There is no timeframe for when the embassy would reopen, but Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr says he would welcome the opportunity to talk directly with North Korean officials.

"It would enable us to express our very strong concerns, our deep concerns, about what we see as a catastrophic position on human rights within North Korea," Senator Carr told ABC News 24.

"A gulag of concentration camps for political opponents of the regime [is] estimated to have 200,000 prisoners in it, in conditions the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner said the other day ... [were] dominated by starvation and by execution.

"A North Korean embassy in Canberra would enable us to register our deep and our strong concerns about the human rights crisis in North Korea, which is probably the most systemic abuse of human rights you could find on the face of the planet."

The North Korean embassy closed in 2008 for financial reasons, having been reopened just six years earlier.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman says the embassy would provide a communications channel to discuss a range of issues, including the regime's nuclear and missile activities.

Australia has a range of sanctions in place against North Korea in response to missile and nuclear tests carried out in 2006.

They prohibit travel into Australia by North Koreans, as well as a ban on North Korean ships docking in Australia.

The sanctions are in addition to those imposed as part of a United Nations order, which banned the sale or supply of arms to the reclusive regime.

The UN sanctions also prohibit anyone from providing financial support or technical advice to North Korea in relation to military hardware.

Senator Carr has indicated he plans to use Australia's position on the UN Security Council to apply further pressure on the rogue state to reform.

He is due to meet UK foreign secretary William Hague in Perth this week as part of annual talks between Australia and Britain where he plans to raise the issue.

In December, North Korea launched a long-range missile in defiance of UN sanctions related to the country's ballistic missile program.


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