Japan and Australia to deepen ties amid North Korea tension




TOKYO (AP) - Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop urged China on Thursday 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 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 a group of 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" amid 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 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 Australian ministers' visit come 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 American troops, 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 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.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Find her work at AP News https://www.apnews.com/search/mari%20yamaguchi

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