Japan said Saturday Australia and Canada will join the multilateral effort to monitor North Korean attempts to evade U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions through maritime smuggling operations.
The Foreign Ministry said the two countries will deploy patrol aircraft to the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture. They are expected to engage in monitoring and surveillance activities to prevent the ship-to-ship transfer of goods at sea by North Korea in waters around the Japanese archipelago and the Korean Peninsula as well as in the East China Sea.
(A North Korean tanker, front, and a vessel of unknown nationality in the East China Sea on Feb. 16)
[Photo courtesy of Japan's Defense Ministry]
"Japan welcomes these activities from the viewpoint of upholding maximum pressure on North Korea," the ministry said in a statement.
The expansion of surveillance, already involving the United States and Japan, comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In held the first inter-Korean summit in over a decade Friday, agreeing to pursue "complete" denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The British Royal Navy has already announced it will deploy its frigate Sutherland to waters around Japan to monitor maritime smuggling. The navy also held a joint military exercise with Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force starting Friday.
Security experts believe North Korea has been engaging in illicit activities at sea due to it being in dire need of fuel and other goods due to U.N.-led sanctions.
Japan has noted and reported to the United Nations multiple cases of suspected ship-to-ship goods transfers between North Korean and foreign-registered tankers in the East China Sea since January.