TOKYO (Reuters) - A British warship “changed its deployment” and arrived in Japan on Wednesday to join efforts to police U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes.
The Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland arrived at Yokosuka, the headquarters of Japan’s Maritime Defence Force fleet and home port of the U.S. Seventh Fleet’s carrier strike group.
It “will be contributing to the international efforts to monitor prohibited trade at sea by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which provides a major source of funding for its illegal nuclear programme,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement, referring to North Korea by its official name.
The Sutherland arrived as the two Koreas prepare for a summit this month and U.S. President Donald Trump readies to meet North Korea leader Kim Jong Un as early as May.
“It’s about pressure. She is part of an international message that is going to North Korea and for the United Kingdom to see fit to send one of its frigates, to change its deployment from Southeast Asia, is part of that very powerful message,” Paul Casson, the British defence attache in Japan, told reporters in Tokyo.
The frigate will join policing operations in the seas around North Korea for about a month and will have the capability to board and inspect ships if called on to do so, Casson added.
Britain plans to send two other ships to Asia in the coming months that will give it an almost unbroken presence in the region this year.
North Korea, which has been developing nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the United States, had vowed never to give up what it calls an essential deterrent against U.S. hostility.
But tensions have eased in recent months, coinciding with the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics held in the South in February.
North Korea had told the United States for the first time that it is prepared to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula when Kim meets Trump, a U.S. official said on Sunday.
Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Nick Macfie