Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop urged China today to do more to help out in the international effort to pressure and persuade North Korea to stop escalating nuclear and missile threat. Bishop said that China has a “unique and specific role to play in pressuring North Korea to cease its illegal behaviour.” Australia plans to work closely with Japan, South Korea and the US, and with China, “to ensure that China can use its unique position.” She made the remark to a group of reporters in Tokyo, where she is joining foreign and defence ministers’ talks between Australia and Japan to discuss deepening defence cooperation in time of the growing North Korean threat.
While supporting the US government’s shift to a tougher stance, Bishop said further effort for dialogue and economic sanctions are necessary. “China is the source of energy, of ideas, of innovation, of expertise,” she said, noting 95 of direct investment in North Korea come from China and that the North’s exports mainly goes to China. “There is a far greater role that China can play in assisting the region and the global community in bringing North Korea into line so it ceases a nuclear and missile program that is clearly designed to attack the United States.”
The North Korea situation makes military cooperation particularly crucial, Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada told Australian counterpart Marise Payne when they met yesterday ahead of the talks. They agreed to expand joint exercises and arms-equipment trade.
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China and the South China Sea are also likely topics when Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida joins the other ministers. The four ministers are also expected to review President Donald Trump’s first three months in office, according to a Japanese foreign ministry official who briefed reporters on customary condition of anonymity.
The Australian ministers’ visit come on the heels of US Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Japan and South Korea earlier this week as part of a 10-day Asia tour to reassure allies of America’s commitment to the region.
Tension on the Korean Peninsula has risen this month, with the Trump administration stepping up pressure on North Korea and two major anniversary events in North Korea.
Japan, a staunch US ally that hosts about 50,000 American troops on its turf, has in recent years developed military cooperation with other countries, including Australia, France and Britain.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to expand Japan’s defence role and capability in the face of North Korea’s threat and China’s increasing assertive maritime activity in the East and South China Seas.