Australia and New Zealand said Friday they are sending surveillance aircraft to Japan to assist in the enforcement of U.N. sanctions on North Korea.
The aircraft -- two AP-3C Orion patrol aircraft from Australia and one P-3K2 aircraft from New Zealand -- are expected to be on the lookout for ship-to-ship transfers of goods by North Korean vessels, which are banned under the U.N. sanctions.
The aircraft will be operating out of U.S. Kadena Air Base on Okinawa in southwestern Japan from mid-September, the Japanese Defense Ministry said Friday.
"This deployment supports Australia's ongoing economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea," Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne said in a statement.
"It is a continuation of our strong stand to deter and disrupt illicit trade and sanctions evasion activities by North Korea and its associated networks," he added.
(A suspected sanction evading activity by a N. Korean tanker, left)
[Courtesy of Japan Defense Ministry]
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement that while his country welcomes recent talks North Korea has held with the United States and South Korea, full implementation of U.N. Security Council sanctions is essential until Pyongyang abides by international obligations.
Japan welcomed the involvement of Australia and New Zealand, with the ministry saying in a statement that such undertaking would help effectively enforce the U.N. sanctions.
The aircraft are believed to conduct surveillance in waters around Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and in the East China Sea.
North Korea is known to have resorted to illicit ship-to-ship transfers, particularly of petroleum products, in a bid to evade economic sanctions imposed by the international community for the country's nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.