The chief U.S. envoy for North Korean affairs says Australia could play a vital role in enforcing U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang that were imposed following its test of a nuclear weapon. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill made the remarks while on a visit to Australia to discuss Asia-Pacific co-operation on the sanctions. 

Speaking Sunday at a public forum in Sydney, Christopher Hill said Australian military capability would be important in enforcing sanctions against North Korea, as it has been in the U.S.-led campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hill said a coalition of willing partners across the Asia-Pacific region would be the best way to police the U.N. resolution.

"At some point we will get beyond the problem of North Korea. Obviously the United States, and I think Australia shares this view, that what we really want to have is a trans-pacific approach more than just a pan-Asian approach," said Hill.

Hill has lead the U.S. delegation to the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program, which also involve China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

The U.N. Security Council voted earlier this month to impose financial and military sanctions on Pyongyang after the secretive regime staged its first nuclear test on October 9th.

Precise details of how to enforce these punitive measures are still being worked out but Hill said Sunday he expected to be working closely with the Australian government on the matter.

Canberra has already offered to provide a warship to help inspect cargo vessels heading to or from North Korea as part of any U.N. sanctions regime.

Separately on Sunday, Hill praised China for exerting pressure on Pyongyang and said the Chinese had a crucial part to play in resolving regional tensions.

China has supported the U.N. sanctions but, along with South Korea and Russia, has argued for caution in implementing them. Beijing fears North Korea's fragile economy could collapse under the weight of the sanctions, leading to regional instability.

Speaking to reporters after the Sydney forum, Hill said it was unclear whether the North Koreans were preparing a second nuclear test, as some analysts suspect.