Australia, Japan agree to keep pressure on North Korea

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…As South resumes supplying water in North Korean border town***

Australia and Japan on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program and enforcing sanctions on Pyongyang.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia and Japan are committed to working closely with allies and partners to ensure North Korea is pressured to end its nuclear and missile programs. Payne and Defense Minister Christopher Pyne were meeting in Sydney with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya.

“We need to see real steps to complete, verifiable irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, Payne told reporters.

Payne and Kono had discussed sanctions enforcement with the United State at last month’s U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Iwaya said the “international community must remain united” to achieve the dismantling of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, Australia and Japan warned China and the United States to settle their differences over trade and political issues using existing rules.

“No country wishes for a new cold war,” Kono said.

President Donald Trump has stepped up pressure on China by raising tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods. Beijing has retaliated by imposing penalties on billions of dollars of U.S. products.

 

In the meantime, South Korea is supplying water in the North Korean border town of Kaesong using a facility in a now-shuttered factory park that had been jointly operated by the rivals.

The water is being supplied to a liaison office between the countries that opened in Kaesong last month and has been provided to the town’s residents as well, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said Wednesday.

He said the resumption of water supply does not violate international sanctions against the North over its nuclear weapons and missile program.

Using the facility that draws from a reservoir near the park, South Korea has been pumping 1,000 to 2,000 tons to the liaison office and about 15,000 tons to the rest of the city every day, Baik said.

“There are also humanitarian considerations as the residents of Kaesong have to rely on the park’s facility for water,” Baik said. “This has nothing to do with restarting the Kaesong factory park.”

The Kaesong factory park was a major symbol of cooperation between the Koreas and an important income source for North Korea before the South’s previous conservative government shut it down in February 2016 following a North Korean nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. The decision had also deprived Kaesong residents of what had been a steady supply of water and electricity.

South Korea is providing electricity to the liaison office, but Seoul has not said if the town’s residents had South Korean-supplied power again as well.

The Koreas’ decision to locate their liaison office in Kaesong, and also the large number of CEOs accompanying South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang last month, indicate that Seoul is preparing to restart inter-Korean economic projects if nuclear diplomacy begins yielding results.

It’s virtually impossible for South Korea to reopen Kaesong’s factory park and embark on other joint economic projects under U.S.-led sanctions imposed against North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

The opening of the liaison office last month was part of a series of moves by the Koreas to reduce tensions amid a global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North. The Koreas have also resumed temporary reunions between war-separated relatives and reached military agreements to reduce tensions across the border.

ABC with additional report from Fox