Russia says North Korea nukes are a 'direct threat'

"While these decisions are disappointing, we should take care not to rush to interpret an intent to engage on different terms as one not to engage at all", Turnbull said. "We consider it urgent", he added. "We will be there with you".

Those tests include a missile capable of reaching "the USA mainland and Pacific operation region" - according to North Korea's state news agency, at least.

Later, answering questions, Turnbull said China could play a key role in reining in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

The North says it needs nuclear weapons to forestall the threat of United States attack.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the United States has spent recent weeks trying to reassure allies it can maintain a tough line against China's "militarisation" of the South China Sea while at the same time seeking help from Beijing.

Defence Secretary's comments came shortly after the UN Security Council had expanded targeted sanctions against North Korea in response to a series of missile tests conducted by Pyongyang this year.

The 14 individuals newly added to the global sanctions blacklist include Cho Il U, who is believed to be in charge of overseas espionage operations, and Jo Wong Won, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as vice director of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea's Organization and Guidance Department.

Mattis said the USA will maintain its close cooperation with Japan and South Korea to ensure its security, adding that Washington is working with allies and the United Nations partners to increase diplomatic pressure on the North Korean regime, Efe news reported.

China has contesting South China Sea claims with not only the Philippines but Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Beijing is involved in a simmering territorial row with Tokyo over the disputed Senkaku Islands, claimed by China as the Diaoyus. It's unclear if and how much the new United Nations sanctions would sting North Korea, which is already under multiple rounds of United Nations and other worldwide sanctions.

Allies around the world have been concerned about the commitment of the United States since Trump took office on January 20 because of his "America First" rhetoric and expectations that he would concentrate on a domestic agenda.

Defence Secretary James Mattis sought patience from Asian nations reeling from President Donald Trump's "American First" policy moves, insisting that the U.S. would continue to expand its engagement in the region.

"I would like to know very clearly what are the true intentions of the new administration", Hishammuddin said.

Mattis called upon all countries to contribute sufficiently to their own security.

"The Trump administration is encouraged by China's renewed commitment to work with the worldwide community toward denuclearization", Mattis said.

"A coercive China would find its neighbors resenting demands they cede their autonomy and strategic space, and look to counterweight Beijing's power by bolstering alliances and partnerships, between themselves and especially with the United States", he said.

China has balked at USA involvement in the dispute and last month accused a U.S. warship of trespassing after it sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing.

North Korea and its nuclear weapons programme pose a "threat to us all", US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday, calling on the worldwide community to work together on the issue.

  • Leroy Wright