North Korea nuclear crisis

Australia prods China on North Korea as missile test threat looms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 1:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 1:46pm

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called on China to do more to contain North Korea’s nuclear threat amid speculation that Pyongyang could conduct a further missile test as early as Thursday.

“China is North Korea’s major financial backer. It has much more leverage over North Korea than it claims,” Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National on Thursday.

The United States and Australia have both indicated growing impatience with China, North Korea’s sole major ally, and Bishop said there was much more that China could do.

“The export relationship with North Korea, the provision of remittance to workers, the foreign investment flows, the technology flows – these are all in China’s hands,” she said.

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Echoing US officials who said earlier this week that there were signs that North Korea could be preparing for another missile test within days, Bishop warned a new intercontinental test could be conducted on Thursday, which marked the end of the Korean war.

“We are receiving these reports, and the Australian government’s position is to ensure that no hostile power has the capacity to pose an existential threat to Australia,” she said. “That’s why we’re taking these threats very seriously, and working with other like-minded nations to ensure that there is peace and stability in the Korean peninsula.”

North Korea, which has regularly threatens to destroy the US and South Korea and warned Australia could be the target of a strike, test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this month, which experts say could put all of Alaska in range for the first time.

July 27 is known as Victory Day in North Korea and there are concerns leader Kim Jong-un could use the anniversary to carry out another missile test.

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Pyongyang has made no secret of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States and has ignored calls to halt its weapons programmes, including those from China. It says the programmes, which contravene UN Security Council resolutions, are necessary to counter US aggression.

Frustrated that China has not done more to rein in North Korea, the US could impose new sanctions on Chinese firms doing business with Pyongyang, senior US official have said.

China has rejected the criticism and urged a halt to what it called the “China responsibility theory”, saying all parties needed to pull their weight.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Wednesday that he was aware of the reports of a possible new North Korean missile test.

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UN resolutions were clear when it came to North Korean missile launches and China opposed any move that ran counter to them, Lu said.

“We hope all sides can bear in mind the broad situation of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and exercise restraint,” he added.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon spy agency, has assessed that North Korea will be able to field a nuclear-capable ICBM by next year, earlier than previously thought.

A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that even if Pyongyang developed a workable ICBM from its “tinker-toy mix of old Russian missiles”, it would pose a threat to the US and its allies only if Kim’s regime was suicidal.