US, Aust stand together on N Korea tests

Australia and the US are demanding China ramp up pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear ambitions, while urging Beijing to stop militarising its artificial islands in the South China Sea.


The calls come after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne hosted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis for high-level talks in Sydney on Monday.

Mr Tillerson said the US and Australia “speak with one voice” in calling for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

With its increasing economic might, China had a responsibility as a regional power to stop North Korea.

“China and other regional partners should also step up their efforts to help solve this security situation which threatens not just that region but really presents a threat to the entire world,” Mr Tillerson told reporters at a joint press conference after the lengthy AusMin talks.

Ms Bishop branded North Korea’s recent missile weapons tests as “highly destructive behaviour”.

“We see North Korea as a threat to our region as much as we see it as a threat globally,” she said.

US President Donald Trump has warned that all options are on the table when it comes to trying to stop North Korea’s missile program amid fears it could develop weapons capable of hitting North America, Japan and Australia.

But the US has made clear that while it wants Beijing to pressure Pyongyang to end the program, it’s not happy with China’s militarisation of a series of man-made islands in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.

During the AusMin talks, the US and Australia reaffirmed their commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, a key regional trading route.

“We oppose China’s artificial island construction and their militarisation that features in international waters,” Mr Tillerson said.

“We desire productive relationships but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarising islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea.

“They must recognise that, with a role as a growing economic and trading power comes security responsibilities as well.”

The US angered China when its Navy came within 12 nautical miles of one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea during a freedom of navigation patrol in late May.

Concerns about China’s presence in the South China Sea featured heavily during a weekend security summit in Singapore, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Beijing to respect the sovereignty of other nations.

Before sitting down for talks with her US counterpart, Ms Bishop said China had violated international law by building the islands and that no nation should take “unilateral action to change the status quo”.