The Royal Navy’s HMS Sutherland docked in the Japanese port of Yokosuka on Wednesday morning and will take part in operations to combat efforts by North Korea to get around United Nations sanctions of banned commodities, including fuel and components for the regime’s nuclear and long-range missile programmes.

Satellites and maritime patrol aircraft have in recent months identified a number of ship-to-ship transfers being conducted at sea between North Korean freighters and vessels flying other flags. Royal Navy vessels will now be involved in monitoring and potentially interdicting such activities, using Wildcat helicopters and state-of-the-art radar systems.

HMS Sutherland is the first of three Royal Navy warships that will visit Japan and other ports in the region before the end of the year in order to enforce UN sanctions, conduct freedom of navigation operations and take part in a series of exercises with the UK’s allies in the region.

“Our armed forces are at the forefront of Global Britain and the deployment of HMS Albion, Sutherland and Argyll demonstrates our unwavering commitment to our international responsibilities and to maintaining peace, security and prosperity in the region”, said Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary.

“Until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions, the UK will continue working closely with partners and allies to keep up pressure and strictly enforce existing sanctions, ensuring not only regional security but that of the UK as well,” he said.