882 6PR Mornings, interview with Gareth Parker

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: My guest on the program is the Foreign Minister of Australia Julie Bishop. Minister, good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Gareth, good to be with you.

JOURNALIST: Thanks for your time today. We obviously want to talk to you about the North Korean situation, a couple of other things too, but I understand that an United Nations Security Council emergency meeting has just concluded in the past several minutes, it was obviously called to discuss how the UN intends, and the community of nations, intends to respond to this latest provocative threat from North Korea. Can you tell us anything about that at this point?

JULIE BISHOP: That's right, Japan and the United States called for an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council to consider this latest provocative act by North Korea, the missile test over Japan's territory which is again in direct defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions which ban North Korea from undertaking such ballistic missile tests and of course its nuclear weapons program as well. The collective strategy is to impose and fully implement sector-wide economic sanctions on North Korea. To date the sanctions have been against individuals and entities, and it's been rather haphazard in its implementation and has been evaded to some extent by North Korea. But now we have all five of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, which of course includes China and Russia who do have economic relationships with North Korea, agreeing to impose much stronger sanctions and they're about to bite and North Korea will learn it will pay a penalty for the behaviour.

JOURNALIST: Is there going to be anything beyond sanctions? Yesterday there were reports around that South Korea is drawing up its own plans for some sort of military operation should the need come. Is there any suggestion that it will go beyond sanctions at this stage?

JULIE BISHOP: South Korea and Japan have a right to defend themselves against any direct attack, but while ever the United States maintains its policy of extended deterrence, that is the nuclear umbrella, I don't envisage these countries, that is Japan and South Korea, developing a capability beyond what they currently have. However, they are taking self defence measures. You will note that South Korea fired off a number of bombs in a location in South Korea, but clearly visible to North Korea, so the message back to North Korea is they won't be bullied, they won't be threatened, there will be consequences. However, I make it quite plain that the United States strategy, the strategy that we and other nations are backing, is to use every political, diplomatic and economic avenue to put pressure on North Korea so that it would change its calculation of risk of its behaviour.

JOURNALIST: What is Kim Jong Un up to?

JULIE BISHOP: Clearly he wants to ensure that his leadership and his regime continues. He's shoring up his legacy, but he wants to provoke the United States and others into dealing with him. Obviously he wants to further advance his illegal tests, even a failed test can advance his illegal programmes. But he's upping the ante so that he has maximum leverage when he eventually sits down to negotiate, with the United States and others, he wants to be treated as a nuclear state. Now it would be an illegal nuclear state, it would be catastrophic if North Korea were ever allowed to assume that status of a nuclear stateā€¦.

JOURNALIST: Will it be allowed?

JULIE BISHOP: No, it won't. The United States and China and Russia and others have said it's just not acceptable to have a rogue state like North Korea in possession of nuclear weapons. The global strategy is to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula and we don't want to see nuclear arms race in Asia. So the strategy of deterring North Korea by political and diplomatic and economic means must be allowed to work.

JOURNALIST: So how long will that solution be pursued? How long will North Korea have to de-escalate, how long will the rest of the world give this process to unfold, to pursue peaceful sanctions rather than other means?

JULIE BISHOP: Well let's put it in context. The last six-party talks with North Korea were in 2008. They broke up in 2008 and there has been no real attempt to restart those negotiations. When the Trump administration came into power they made it quite clear that all options would be on the table, including military options, and as President Trump put it "the era of strategic patience is over". So clearly the United States wants to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table as soon as possible and these economic sanctions are one of the tools in the diplomatic arsenal that need to be able to be implemented fully and the UN Security Council resolution was back on 5 August, nations have 30 days to fully implement the sanctions, so that will be occurring now. These are significant sanctions, they're the toughest most comprehensive sector wide sanctions ever imposed against North Korea. For example, banning all imports of North Korean coal, that is North Korea's largest export. Banning all imports of North Korean iron and lead and seafood, this is worth billions of dollars to North Korea over time and it will strip North Korea of the revenue that they're using to fund these illegal tests. The sanctions also include a ban on new work visas for North Korean labourers who otherwise go to China and elsewhere to earn revenue that is remitted back to the regime for their illegal programmes. The sanctions are also targeting North Korea's foreign trade bank, this is a primary foreign exchange bank in North Korea. So these sanctions will have an impact like never before and they must be given time to work.

JOURNALIST: Minister, it's reported by Nick Evans in this morning's West Australian that Australia is in deep discussions with the US about an increased commitment to Afghanistan ahead of a likely request from the Trump administration for further support. Can you confirm that's the case?

JULIE BISHOP: No, that's not the case. I've been in contact with Ambassador Hockey and that doesn't represent the conversation he had. What we are doing is supporting the US strategy on Afghanistan which was announced recently. I spoke with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last Friday about it. He thanked Australia for our increased commitment recently, we've added another 30 defence personnel to our total defence group of 300 in Afghanistan. We've not been asked for more and we are the second largest non-NATO contributor to the situation in Afghanistan. If the United States did ask us, but they haven't, we will of course consider it as we do all requests, but it's not correct to say that we're in deep discussions about that.

JOURNALIST: Okay, what's the likelihood that more troops will be requested, that more Australian troops will hit the ground in Afghanistan?

JULIE BISHOP: Well the United States has outlined a new South Asia strategy and this is long term strategic thinking, and we welcome it, and it's all about helping Afghanistan secure its future and we will continue to work with the US as it implements the strategy. It's an integrated approach incorporating diplomatic, economic and military efforts and we will co-ordinate closely with the Untied States on our contribution. But I've discussed it in detail with US Secretary of State and our Defence Minister Marise Payne has spoken with the US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and we will remain engaged with the US and NATO and other international partners to ensure that our contribution to Afghanistan remains appropriate. We have 300 people there, we have been there for a very long time, the last 16 years and our purpose for being in Afghanistan is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a save haven for terrorism. We know that the Taliban has proven resilient, is still the biggest security challenge but Islamic State, it's called Islamic State Khorasan Province has also established in Afghanistan and so we need to be ever vigilant to defeat terrorism wherever it occurs.

JOURNALIST: Speaking of terrorism, much closer to home, an issue that I think perhaps has, not with you Minister I'm sure, but perhaps in the public discussion has sailed a little under the radar is the situation in the city of Marawi in the Philippines, which is very much right in our backyard. Now for people who aren't aware the Philippines authorities are basically battling ISIS, in that city of Marawi, it's a city under siege. Andrew Tillett in the Financial Review reports there has been an offer to send troops. Can you elaborate on that?

JULIE BISHOP: What we have already done is provided surveillance assistance to the armed forces Philippines who are battling a combination of Islamic State terrorists, these are returning foreign terrorist fighters, who have combined with militants and rebels and criminal networks already established in southern Philippines. This has been an area of conflict for many years in the Philippines and they were in the process of trying to implement a peace outcome in Southern Philippines when ISIS popped up and sought to declare the Southern Philippines another Islamic caliphate. So the armed forces of the Philippines are now battling terrorists in this conflict ridden region. Australia has provided surveillance, intelligence, information sharing. When I saw President Duterte in Manila recently we discussed how the battle has changed from jungle warfare to urban warfare and the fighters are embedded in civilian populations. They're holding people hostage in mosques and the like, so it's actually taking place in a city. And I explained to the President that we have experience in assisting and planning and advising other troops, in Afghanistan in Iraq, in this kind of urban warfare and I discussed that with him and said that if he sought further support we would be prepared to provide it. But he's not yet sought any specific support from Australia beyond that which we're already giving, which is surveillance and information and intelligence sharing.

JOURNALIST: Okay, thanks for your time this morning Minister.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

- Ends -

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