ABC AM, interview with Sabra Lane

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: US President Donald Trump says North Korea's latest missile launch signals contempt for its neighbours in the United Nations and he's again warned that all options are on the table. The UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting to discuss Pyongyang's firing of a ballistic missile over Northern Japan yesterday. The US Ambassador to the UN is Nikki Haley.


NIKKI HALEY: We are going to talk about what else is left to do to North Korea. No country should have missiles flying over them like those 130 million people in Japan. It's unacceptable. They have violated every single UN Security Council resolution that we've had and so I think something serious has to happen.

[End excerpt]

JOURNALIST: For the latest on developments with North Korea, I was joined earlier by the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop.

Julie Bishop, thanks for talking to AM. What do you think Kim Jong Un is up to?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe this latest missile test was designed to provoke a response from the United States, South Korea, Japan and others, but it was also to further advance North Korea's illegal tests. Even a failed test can advance a program, but it has been a serious escalation of North Korea's ongoing provocative and illegal behaviour. To fire a ballistic missile over the territory of Japan is dangerous and threatening, as well as being in direct defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions. So North Korea is thumbing its nose at the authority of the UN Security Council.

JOURNALIST: What more can the world offer but words?

JULIE BISHOP: The collective strategy is to impose and fully implement sector-wide sanctions on North Korea. To date, the sanctions have been against individuals and entities and it's been rather haphazard in its implementation and it could be evaded. But now much stronger sanctions are about to bite and North Korea will learn that it will pay a penalty for its illegal behaviour. Recently the UN Security Council imposed the toughest, most comprehensive sector-wide sanctions against the North Korean economy. It's unprecedented and the sanctions have been backed by China and Russia, and we urge all countries around the world to implement these sanctions, which includes banning all imports of North Korean coal – its largest export – iron, iron ore, seafood and the like. This will be worth billions of dollars to North Korea over time and will strip them of revenue used to fund these illegal tests.

JOURNALIST: Do sanctions work? The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister overnight, Sergei Ryabokov, has said it's already obvious to everyone that resource of sanctions pressure is exhausted. What's your response?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't agree at all. In fact, this latest round of sanctions are yet to come fully into effect. They were imposed back on 5 August, countries have 30 days within which to implement them if they need to pass domestic legislation and the like. So the full impact of these sanctions is yet to hit North Korea, and I believe that, for example, the sanctions cover new work visas for North Korean labourers. In other words, there's a ban on North Korean labourers going overseas to earn revenue. This revenue is being used for the regime's illegal programs, so there's a ban on their workers going overseas. There are sanctions on their primary foreign exchange bank. These sanctions will start to hit and hit very hard.

JOURNALIST: The US President has vowed that he won't allow North Korea to build weapons that can reach the United States and he says that all options are on the table. The US representative to the UN says something serious has to happen. Should Australians be braced for conflict?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, the North Korean regime must understand that the United States will defend its allies, and that includes Japan and South Korea, and when President Trump says all options are on the table, that includes military options. In my discussions with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as recently as last Friday, he made it clear that they would exhaust all diplomatic, political and economic options and exert unprecedented pressure on North Korea through those avenues before other options were considered.

JOURNALIST: How would Australia regard an attack upon Japan; would that be viewed as an attack on Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, Japan is not a formal treaty ally of Australia, but Japan depends on the US policy of extended deterrence – the so-called nuclear umbrella. So if there were an attack on Japan, the United States has made it quite clear that it would come to Japan's assistance. Australia likewise relies on the US extended deterrence policy, we are also under the nuclear umbrella of the United States.

JOURNALIST: It's been reported the South Korean President has asked his nation's military to prepare a new war plan in case of a North Korean attack, deploying airborne troops and marines to Pyongyang and identifying more than 1000 North Korean targets for missiles and precision-guided weapons. Has Australia been briefed on those options?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is in constant communication with our allies and friends – that includes, of course, the United States, Japan, South Korea – and we remain in close contact through our defence forces as well. So Australia is involved in the discussions, but most certainly we're taking our own advice as well as to the risk to Australia. We've assessed the risk. We're not a primary target, and Defence assesses the likelihood of Australia being a target as extremely low.

JOURNALIST: Is the level of danger at the point where you'd advise Australians from travelling in both South Korea and Japan, and how many Australians are actually based in that region?

JULIE BISHOP: We would not change our travel advice at this point. We rely on advice from our missions in those countries, but at this point our travel advice would not change.

JOURNALIST: On the Philippines, you've made an offer to President Duterte to help provide troops with training and advising; has that offer been accepted?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, I told him what we were doing in Iraq. The situation in Marawi is similar to that in the Middle East, where the terrorists are embedding with civilian populations. We have experience in advising and assisting and training troops in the Middle East – for example, in Afghanistan and in Iraq – in this type of urban warfare, and I explained that to President Duterte, that we had that experience and that of course Australia would offer to assist should he require it. But the President didn't provide any response to that. He listened to what I had to say.

JOURNALIST: Minister, thank you very much for talking to AM.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure. Thank you, Sabra.

JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop.

- Ends -

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