US, Japan vow to boost defence cooperation with India, South Korea, Australia

Pauline Gross
August 18, 2017

"We will cooperate to advance trilateral and multilateral security and defence cooperation with other partners in the region, notably the Republic of Korea, Australia, India and other southeast Asian countries", US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters at a news conference here with Defence Secretary James Mattis. North Korea has shown no sign of complying with the USA conditions.

In response, Mr Ri expressed North Korea's desire to hold a dialogue, the sources said.

Washington's efforts to reach a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the growing crisis on the Korean peninsula were boosted this week when China announced plans to cut off North Korean coal, iron ore and other goods in three weeks in compliance with recently approved United Nations sanctions.

Notably, the statement comes a day after US President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon said there was no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury". Trump got attention - and sparked alarm - with comments that threats from Kim Jong Un's regime, which has pledged to develop a nuclear missile that could hit the US mainland, would be met with "fire and fury".

Like no American president before him, Trump has matched North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's traditionally bellicose rhetoric and helped ratchet up tension on the Korean peninsula. On Twitter, he said he was "very disappointed" in China, Pyongyang's primary economic partner.

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China, North Korea's main trade partner and sole patron in the global community, has been hesitant to push too hard against Kim Jong-un's regime despite efforts by the Trump White House to pressure Beijing to take a harder line against the North. "(With) ROK (South Korea), Australia, India and Southeast Asian countries, we will promote more than ever before cooperation in security and defence", Kono said in Japanese which was translated into English. "It's not that I'm over here, you know, Dr. Strangelove, you know, doing things like that, okay?" Bannon went on, the magazine reported, to describe a battle inside the administration over whether to go easy on China in what he considered the vain hope it would restrain Pyongyang.

But, knowing that North Korea sits with a significant capability already within their grasp, I think it is only prudent that they fully understand the consequences, should they make a bad choice for themselves.

Tillerson declined to comment on Bannon's statements but said pressure on North Korea was stronger than ever and included Pyongyang's ally, China.

What he and Mattis want to do, he said, is to "inform the American people, first, but also inform our important friends and allies as to what our approach is". "We also oppose militarisation activity in the South China Sea", he said. "And, obviously, there are consequences for others as well", Tillerson added.

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