Australia urges China to do more on North Korea threat

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called on China on Thursday to do more to contain the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea, which has warned Australia could be the target of a strike, test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this month, which experts say could put all of Alaska in range for the first time.

The United States and Australia have both indicated growing impatience with China, North Korea’s sole major ally, and Bishop said there was much more that China could do.

“China is North Korea’s major financial backer. It has much more leverage over North Korea than it claims,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Radio National.

“The export relationship with North Korea, the provision of remittance to workers, the foreign investment flows, the technology flows – these are all in China’s hands,” she said.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and the Security Council has ratcheted up measures in response to five nuclear weapons tests and two long-range missile launches.

Frustrated that China has not done more to rein in North Korea, the United States could impose new sanctions on Chinese firms doing business with Pyongyang, senior U.S. official have said.

China has rejected the criticism and urged a halt to what it called the “China responsibility theory”, saying all parties needed to pull their weight.

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Richard Pullin