Australia is sending a pair of AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft to Japan to help enforce United Nations sanctions on North Korea.
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The two aircraft will conduct maritime surveillance patrols from Japan as part of the international sanctions enforcement regime.
This is the second time Australia has despatched maritime patrol aircraft to enforce sanctions on North Korea. In April, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the deployment of a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
"That is part of our collaboration with partners in that exercise to enforce those UN sanctions, and it's very important that be done," he said at the time.
“Sanctions had been evaded by transferring material from ship to ship, [our plane] will add to the surveillance of the area to make sure those who are part of that are held responsible and brought to account."
A succession of UN Security Council resolutions has banned almost all trade to and from North Korea in a bid to force it to end its nuclear weapons program. Australia also imposes its own autonomous sanctions.
The sanctions allow entry of humanitarian aid but bar trade in other commodities. With a desperate need for foreign currency, North Korea has conducted illicit export of a range of commodities including seafood and minerals. In the past, North Korea has also exported weapons, narcotics and missile technology.
New Zealand is also deploying an aircraft to assist in sanctions enforcement. A New Zealand Air Force Orion P-3K2 will also be carrying out surveillance of international waters in north Asia, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters announced on Friday.
Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said the latest deployment of the two Orions was in support of the international effort to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions on North Korea.
“This deployment supports Australia’s ongoing economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea,” he said.
“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.”
Minister Pyne said Australia continued to work with partners to enforce sanctions to pressure North Korea to take concrete and verifiable steps to denuclearise.
“A stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific remains Australia’s priority,” he said.
This could well be among the final deployments of Australia’s veteran Orions, slated for retirement at the end of the year, their role replaced by the new P-8A Poseidons and Northrop Grumman Triton high-altitude unmanned aircraft.