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U.S., Australia to promote practical defense ties with S. Korea

The United States and Australia agreed Wednesday to enhance substantial military cooperation with South Korea in handling regional and global security problems.

"The two countries committed to intensifying their collaboration with the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the promotion of stability on the Korean Peninsula," the allies said in a joint communique to sum up the results of the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations.

In the annual meeting held in the 63rd year of the Washington-Canberra alliance, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met here with their Australian counterparts -- Julie Bishop and David Johnston.

The two nations agreed to push for more "practical defense engagement" with South Korea especially in counter-proliferation efforts and in working together in the United Nations, on maritime cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The allies urged North Korea to "take irreversible steps to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete and verifiable manner and to immediately cease all related activities, suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program, and refrain from proliferation of proscribed items and technologies."

They also lauded the U.N. Commission of Inquiry for its ongoing probe into North Korea's human rights abuses.

"The United States and Australia call on the DPRK (North Korea) to address concerns over its human rights violations, including the abduction of citizens of other countries," they said.

The two sides reaffirmed their intent to conclude talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement by the end of this year.

The U.S. is negotiating with 11 nations -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

South Korea has expressed its interest in the TPP but it has not announced a decision yet to join the negotiations.

The U.S. and Australia noted that the TPP is a "high-standard and comprehensive" agreement to drive a significant expansion of trade and investment, create new jobs, increase regional and global supply chains, and bring many other benefits to member states.

"They will continue to collaborate with Japan and the Republic of Korea to advance regional economic integration and prosperity, including through the coordinated use of foreign assistance and support for regional institutions," read the joint communique. (Yonhap News)