CANBERRA, June 6 (Xinhua) -- Australia and China will continue to work together to fight the scourge of illicit drugs, Australia's justice minister said on Tuesday, after both nations agreed to extend a joint agency cooperation program until January 2018.
Announcing the extension of the Taskforce Blaze partnership between Australian Federal Police (APF) and the Chinese National Narcotics Control Commission, Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the taskforce had been responsible for the seizure of tonnes of illicit drugs worth billions of dollars.
"Taskforce Blaze is the first ever joint agency taskforce of its kind in the world, and Australia remains the only country to have such crime fighting cooperation with China," Keenan said.
Since its inception in November 2015, the taskforce has proven to be one of the single most effective ways of stopping illicit drugs, including methamphetamine (known as ice), from hitting Australian streets, said Keenan.
In 18 months, 10.5 tons of illicit drugs and precursors, worth more than 5 billion Australian dollars (3.74 billion U.S. dollars) have been seized, that's an average of more than half a ton of drugs and millions of street deals every month, he added.
Keenan said that illicit drugs remained one of the biggest scourges on Australian society, with the drugs affecting not only those who take them, but their families and friends as well.
"The work of Taskforce Blaze is saving lives. Just one hit of an illicit drug can take a life, destroy a family and devastate a community," he said.
The minister added that the program's success would continue, issuing a warning to drug traffickers in both nations that authorities would find them.
"The extension of Taskforce Blaze should serve as a warning to the criminals who peddle in the misery of drugs: we will stop you," Keenan said.
"Under the new agreement, the scope will continue to focus on expanding investigations into multinational drug smuggling organizations," he said.
"Organized crime knows no borders and is clearly a transnational threat shared by our countries and our region," Keenan added.