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Japan and Australia vow deeper ties amid North Korea tension

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop has urged China to do more to help the international effort to persuade North Korea to stop escalating tension over its nuclear arsenal.

Speaking on a visit to Japan, Ms Bishop said China has a "unique and specific role to play in pressuring North Korea to cease its illegal behaviour".

She said Australia plans to work closely with Japan, South Korea, the US and China "to ensure that China can use its unique position".

She was speaking before joining Australian defence minister Marise Payne and their Japanese counterparts, foreign minister Fumio Kishida and defence minister Tomomi Inada, for talks in which they agreed to deepen their defence co-operation at a time of growing North Korean threat.

Mr Kishida said the US presence in the region is "crucial" amid an increasingly difficult security environment. He also made a case for including India, saying Delhi is needed for peace and stability in waters spanning the East China and South China seas.

While supporting the US government's shift to a tougher stance towards North Korea, Ms Bishop said further effort for dialogue and economic sanctions are necessary.

She added: "There is a far greater role that China can play in assisting the region and the global community in bringing North Korea into line so it ceases a nuclear and missile programme that is clearly designed to attack the United States."

The Australian ministers' visit came on the heels of US vice-president Mike Pence's trip to Japan and South Korea to reassure allies of America's commitment to the region.

Tension on the Korean Peninsula has risen this month, with the Trump administration stepping up pressure on North Korea and two major anniversary events in North Korea.

Japan, a staunch US ally that hosts about 50,000 American troops, has in recent years developed military co-operation with other countries, including Australia, France and Britain.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to expand Japan's defence role and capability in the face of North Korea's threat and China's increasing assertive activity in the East and South China seas.

AP

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