Australia to send military aircraft to monitor North Korean ships

A sailor stands on his boat in a port in Rason, North Korea. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia will send a military patrol aircraft to monitor North Korean vessels suspected of transferring prohibited goods in defiance of United Nations sanctions, Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Saturday (April 28).

The announcement came a day after the leaders of North and South Korea pledged at an historic summit to work for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

However, US President Donald Trump, who is also set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said he would maintain pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions that were imposed in a bid to rein in the North's missile and nuclear programmes.

Australia, a staunch US ally, also promised to keep up economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

"Australia is to send a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to Japan to contribute to the enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions in our region," Payne said in a media release.

"The deployment supports the international campaign to address North Korea's illicit trade and associated networks," she said.

Senior US officials said in February the Trump administration and key Asian allies were preparing to expand interceptions of ships suspected of violating the sanctions on North Korea. The strategy called for closer tracking of ships suspected of carrying banned weapons components and other prohibited cargo to and from North Korea.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said pressure had to be kept on North Korea to ensure the Korean peninsula was denuclearised.

Japanese media outlet NHK initially reported unidentified Japanese defence sources as saying Australia and Canada would send patrol aircraft, while Britain would also send a frigate to a US base in southern Japan to monitor North Korean vessels transferring goods at sea.

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