June 6, 2017 5:04 am JST

US, Australia want China to do more on North Korea

Defense, foreign affairs heads stress Beijing's responsibility as rising power

KAORI TAKAHASHI, Nikkei staff writer

From left, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne speak to reporters after their June 5 meeting in Sydney. © Reuters

SYDNEY -- The top diplomats and defense chiefs of the U.S. and Australia affirmed Monday that North Korea's nuclear and missile development poses a global threat, and they urged China to ratchet up the pressure on its neighbor.

The two sides "speak with one voice in calling for North Korea to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters after the talks here. This marked the first "two plus two" meeting -- high-level talks between the top defense and diplomatic officials from both sides -- since October 2015, under President Donald Trump's predecessor Barack Obama.

The situation "threatens not just [the Asia-Pacific] region but really presents a threat to the entire world," Tillerson warned. He criticized Beijing's "failure to put appropriate pressure on North Korea."

"We are committed to working very closely together and with our regional partners to impose greater costs on the [North Korean] regime for that destabilizing behavior," Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Washington and Canberra "share similar views" on Australia's involvement in defense and security operations, including with regard to Pyongyang.

Both sides reaffirmed their "commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight," particularly in the South China Sea, Tillerson said, adding that "we oppose China's artificial-island construction and their militarization of features in international waters."

Beijing "must recognize that with a role as a growing economic and trading power comes security responsibilities as well," he said.

The U.S. and Australia agreed to work to strengthen their trilateral security relationship with Japan.

Meanwhile, on trade, Tillerson alluded to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which Washington withdrew from and Canberra plans to pursue even in its ally's absence.

"We are the largest trading partner" with Australia based on foreign direct investment as well as actual trade, Tillerson noted. "My expectation is that's not going to change."

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