Canada, Australia to send military aircraft to monitor North Korean ships

The Canadian military is joining Britain, the U.S. and Australia in a new surveillance mission to monitor ship-to-ship transfers of oil and other goods to and from North Korea in violation of UN sanctions.

Canada is sending about 40 support personnel and a long-range patrol aircraft, a CP-140 Aurora, to the U.S. military’s Kadena air base on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, a spokesperson for the Canadian defence department confirmed in a statement on Saturday.

The aircraft and personnel are from Canadian Forces Base Comox in B.C.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also issued statements saying the aim of Canada’s participation in the operation is to “counter North Korea’s maritime smuggling in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed his country’s role in the patrols on Saturday, a day after the eaders of North and South Korea pledged at a historic summit to work for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who is also set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in either May or June, has said he would maintain pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions that were imposed in a bid to rein in the North’s missile and nuclear programs.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, also promised to keep up economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

“We do have a P-8A surveillance aircraft that is going to be working in the region to monitor compliance with sanctions, and that is part of our collaboration with our partners in that exercise to enforce those UN sanctions,” Turnbull said, speaking during a televised news conference.

‘Sanctions have been evaded’

“What has been occurring is that sanctions have been evaded by transferring materials from ship to ship … to add to the surveillance of the area enables that to be identified and then, of course, those who are a party to that to be held responsible and brought to account.”

Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said pressure had to be kept on North Korea to ensure the Korean peninsula was denuclearized.

Australia has offered up a P-8A surveillance aircraft to help monitor North Korea’s compliance with sanctions. The U.S. has accused China and Russia of breaching UN sanctions on North Korea by transferring oil from their ships to North Korean tankers out at sea to avoid detection.(Lukas Coch/EPA)

The move by Australia and Canada to deploy patrol aircraft comes after a British warship arrived in Japan this month to join efforts to police UN sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

“Japan welcomes these (surveillance) activities from the viewpoint of upholding the maximum pressure on North Korea while maintaining the solidarity of the international community,” the Japanese government said in a statement, referring to the moves by Australia, Canada and Britain.

Senior U.S. officials said in February the Trump administration and key Asian allies were preparing to expand interceptions of ships suspected of violating the sanctions on North Korea. The strategy called for closer tracking of ships suspected of carrying banned weapons components and other prohibited cargo to and from North Korea.

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