New Zealand deploys aircraft to Asia to help enforce N. Korea sanctions

Juche Tower stands beside the Taedong River ahead of 70th anniversary of North Korea’s foundation in Pyongyang. (Reuters pic)

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said on Friday his government was deploying to a maritime patrol aircraft to Japan to assist with efforts to enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

A New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 aircraft would carry out patrols of international waters in North Asia for signs of vessels undertaking activities that break UN sanctions against North Korea, including ship-to-ship transfers, Peters and Defence Minister Ron Mark said in an emailed statement.

“We welcome the recent dialogue North Korea has had with the United States and South Korea. However, until such time as North Korea abides by its international obligations, full implementation of the United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions will be essential,” Peters said.

The aircraft would be based at Kadena Air Base in Japan, he added.

The United States has been pressuring North Korea via sanctions to give up its nuclear weapons program and in August penalised two Russian shipping companies and six vessels it said were involved in the transfer of refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels in violation of UN restrictions.

The United States and North Korea are involved in talks intended to ease tensions between them, and US President Donald Trump met with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in June.

Since then relations have cooled and a planned visit by the top US diplomat to North Korea was scrapped last week because Trump said insufficient progress toward denuclearisation had been made.