06/07/2017 12:49 PM AEST | Updated 06/07/2017 3:48 PM AEST

Barnaby Joyce Chooses Potential Trade War Over A World War

The acting PM is accused of being 'gung ho' as he signals sympathy for China trade sanctions.

CANBERRA -- China is by far Australia's largest trading partner. In 2015-16, trade between the two countries was worth $150 billion. That's more than double the trade of Australia's second largest trading partner, Japan.

Now Australia is ratcheting up the pressure on China over North Korea where it actually has the potential to hurt Australia the most.

Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce a signaled support for trade sanctions against China in response to North Korea's latest threat, as the "key person" who could affect the intensifying situation was China.

"China has more cards on the table on this than most and should be dealing with this promptly," Joyce told RN Breakfast.

Trade sanctions with China are part of the U.S Trump Administration's arsenal, with the President tweeting this two part warning overnight.

Joyce's response to the trade threat was, "we obviously have sympathy".

It would be a serious move to follow the U.S in this way, but the acting PM said the affect of trade sanctions against China would "pale into insignificance" against what would happen if North Korea continued down its nuclear program path.

Later on Sky News, Joyce indicated he very much had the local threat from North Korea on his mind.

"Do you want to do anything about it? Are you just going to sit back and watch it?" the Nationals Leader proposed. "How progressive do you want North Korea to get in the capacity to put a nuclear warhead into Darwin?"

But acting Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek said Australia needed to work with China to address North Korean 'belligerence' and accused Joyce of getting away with himself while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was off on a Europe trip, including the G20 summit in Hamburg.

"I noticed that the deputy prime minister who's the acting prime minister at the moment is all gung ho, getting into a trade embargo with China on the basis of their activities in North Korea," she told reporters in Sydney.

"I think a more sober reflection would say that China has played an important role both through diplomatic and through economic means of putting pressure on North Korea not to engage in missile testing."

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