China has an obligation to use its “enormous leverage” to bring nuclear-armed North Korea back from the brink, Australia’s prime minister said today, toughening Canberra’s position on the escalating crisis. Malcolm Turnbull’s remarks came after the North’s latest failed missile test and ahead of a visit to Australia by US Vice President Mike Pence, who is in Asia to signal Washington’s commitment to regional security.
“The North Korea regime is a reckless and dangerous threat to peace and stability in our region and, indeed, in the world,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. “The real obligation — the heaviest obligation — is on China.”
Beijing has “enormous leverage over North Korea” and “the ability… to bring, to pull North Korea back into at least the position where it is not threatening to rain down devastation on its neighbours,” Turnbull said.
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“So what we’re now looking forward to is action from China.” A close US ally, Australia nonetheless enjoys a good relationship with China, its biggest trading partner.
Beijing is under intense pressure, particularly from the US, to do more to rein in Pyongyang, which has defied international pressure over its quest to develop a nuclear- tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland.
But China has long opposed dramatic action against the North, fearing the regime’s collapse would send a flood of refugees across its border and leave the US military on its doorstep.
Yet US threats to take unilateral action have rattled Chinese leaders, pushing them to pursue a tougher line against their neighbour, including suspending coal imports from the country for the remainder of the year. Pence is due to meet Turnbull in Sydney on Saturday.