stands ready to support Japan “at any time”, as leaders from across the political spectrum condemned the “illegal, provocative and threatening” behaviour of North Korea after it fired a missile over Japan.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said was focussed on de-escalating tensions, which had increased following the succession of Kim Jong-un to North Korea’s leadership.
Ms Bishop said China was playing ” a significant role” in persuading Pyongyang to halt its nuclear weapons program by participating in the toughest sanctions ever placed on the regime.
China has agreed with UN Security Council resolutions to ban the export of North Korean coal and seafood, as well as stop the issuing of work visas to the nation’s residents, in moves that are expected to have a severe economic consequences.
“China is playing its part in upholding the sanctions against the regime and also China is one of the main destinations for North Korean migrant workers,” she said.
“China has confirmed it will not issue any new work visas for North Korean workers – that will have a significant economic impact on North Korea and that’s what we are seeking to do, to put sufficient pressure on the regime that it recalculates the risks that it is undertaking by behaving illegally.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on China to do more.
“China has to ratchet up the pressure … China has the greatest economic leverage and they have the ability to bring North Korea to its senses without military action,” he told 5AA radio in Adelaide.
Mr Turnbull was briefed on the situation early on Tuesday morning. Meetings of the cabinet and the national security committee of cabinet will meet later today to discuss North Korea’s actions.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, was speaking to ABC radio as news of the missile firing broke.
South Koreans watch a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korea’s missile launch, at the Seoul Railway Station on Tuesday Photo: AP
“The international community should continue to act as one to make clear to North Korea that its actions are provocative and unlawful and we need particularly to ensure that the US and China act in concert to keep the pressure on North Korea to respond more appropriately to the UN sanctions,” she said.
“If what you’ve said is correct it’s a highly provocative unlawful action by North Korea and again, demonstrating that they are a threat to regional peace, regional stability and in fact global peace and stability.”
Tensions appeared to ease following US President Donald Trump’s promise of “fire and fury” in response to any North Korean acts of aggression against America and its territories, with the morning’s events coming as North Korea was seen to be listening to international calls for calm.
The Japanese military opted not to shoot the weapon down, in what Ms Bishop said was a calculated act to gather intelligence from the fallen missile, after it became obvious it would not hit Japanese territory.
Japan’s president, Shinzo Abe, said the government would “take full steps to protect people’s lives” in televised remarks as he entered emergency meetings.
Ms Bishop said it was not the first time the world had witnessed this sort of behaviour from the Hidden Kingdom.
“The last time they fired a missile over the territory of Japan was in 1998,” she said.
“Over time, we managed to talk North Korea around to abiding, for a short while, with UN Security Council resolutions. Of course the scale and pace of these tests is increasing. The tempo is increasing.
“But you will remember, back in 2000, just after that … two years after the missile test over Japan, North and South Korea marched as one team at the Sydney Olympics. We got to the point where we had managed to change North Korea’s behaviour for a period and that’s what the United States is hoping to do again.”
The Pentagon confirmed through a statement it was assessing the launch, but that it did not pose a threat to North America.