China must do more to stop North Korea’s nuclear missile launches, Theresa May said as she refused to rule out British military action to stop the rogue state.
Landing in Japan just 36 hours after Pyongyang sent a missile over the north of the country, the Prime Minister insisted the UK would be re-doubling its efforts to curb the regime’s weapons testing programme.
Mrs May has gone ahead with the visit, which will focus on trade and security, despite the launch of a missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, which landed in the Pacific Ocean.
She said: “We are very clear that the actions of North Korea are illegal. I think that they are significant actions of provocation.
“I think it is outrageous. That’s why will be working with our international partners, as we have done previously, but we will be re-doubling our efforts with our international partners to put pressure on North Korea to stop these illegal activities. China has a key role to play here in terms of the pressure they can bring on North Korea.”
Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes were already on the agenda for the three-day visit, which begins in Kyoto.
Mrs May will attend a meeting of the Japanese National Security Council on Thursday, with former Australian premier Tony Abbott the only other foreign leader to have been given the honour.
The Prime Minister refused to rule out future British military action against North Korea or cyber warfare after being quizzed by reporters four times on the issue.
Mrs May said: “I think what I have made clear is what the UK is looking at and what the UK is doing and that is looking at pressure on North Korea, which is discussions about further sanctions and it’s about the sort of change that China can bring. I think they are a key player in this. We would encourage China to do everything it can to bring pressure on North Korea to stop this.”
As well as talks with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on boosting security and defence co-operation, Mrs May will be pushing for progress on an “ambitious” trade deal ready for when the UK quits the European Union.
The PM wants to use the trade agreement being finalised between the EU and Japan as the basis for a future pact with the Britain.
She will attempt to reassure Japanese businesses that the UK will not fall off a cliff edge when it quits the EU.
Mrs May said: “When we leave the European Union, there’s obviously a number of trade deals that the EU has with other countries and we are looking the possibility of those being able to be brought over into trade deals with the United Kingdom. What Japanese businesses and other businesses have asked us to look at is this issue of the certainty going forward of not having a cliff edge.”
A 15-strong delegation of UK business leaders, along with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox are flying out for the visit and will attend the UK Japan business forum in central Tokyo, where the PM will make a speech.