Australian official nudges China on North Korea

Posted: April 21, 2017 at 1 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2017 at 1 a.m.

TOKYO -- Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Thursday urged China to do more to help in the international effort to pressure and persuade North Korea to stop escalating its nuclear and missile threat.

Bishop said China has a "unique and specific role to play in pressuring North Korea to cease its illegal behavior." Australia plans to work closely with Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and China "to ensure that China can use its unique position."

She made the remark to reporters in Tokyo before joining Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne and their Japanese counterparts, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, for talks in which they agreed to deepen their defense cooperation at a time of growing North Korean threat.

Kishida said the U.S. presence in the region was "crucial" in an increasingly difficult security environment. He also made a case for including India, saying Delhi was needed for peace and stability in waters spanning the East China and South China seas.

While supporting the U.S. government's shift to a tougher stance toward North Korea, 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 that 95 instances of direct investment in North Korea come from China and that the North's exports mainly go 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."

EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini also expressed concern Thursday about rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, saying China and Europe have a common responsibility to avoid a military escalation on the Korean Peninsula.

In a speech at Tsinghua University on her final day of a three-day trip to Beijing, Mogherini warned of the worldwide implications of a crisis on the peninsula.

"Everyone understands that the crisis with North Korea will have a global fallout," she told students at the school that has produced many of China's top leaders.

Mogherini said she discussed the issue of North Korea at length during her talks with Chinese officials in Beijing.

She said China and the EU had a "common responsibility and an interest to avoid a military escalation in the Korean Peninsula, to push for North Korea to abide by its international obligations and re-engage with the international community, and work together for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula."

The Australian ministers' visit to Japan came on the heels of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's trip to Japan and South Korea 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 U.S. ally that hosts about 50,000 U.S. troops, has in recent years developed military cooperation with other countries, including Australia, Britain and France. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to expand Japan's defense role and capability in the face of North Korea's threat and China's increasing assertive activity in the East and South China seas.

Information for this article was contributed by Christopher Bodeen of The Associated Press.

A Section on 04/21/2017