Doorstop interview

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: Over the weekend I returned from Seoul where Defence Minister Marise Payne and I attended the 2+2 Meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang and Defence Minister Soong. I have seen today a statement released by the North Korean State-run newsagency which contains threats against Australia. North Korea's threats will only strengthen our resolve to find a peaceful solution to the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea is entirely responsible for the rising tensions through its continuing illegal ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, threatening strikes on other nations in the region and in defiance of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions. Its behaviour is provocative, illegal and threatening. And Australia will continue to work with allies, friends and partners in a collective strategy to impose maximum pressure, diplomatic and economic sanctions on the North Korean regime, so that it will change its behaviour and we compel it back to the negotiating table. We are determined to find a peaceful resolution to the rising tensions.

JOURNALIST: Should Australians be scared following this North Korean threat? Is the country in danger?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is not a primary target and North Korea has made threats against Australia before. But North Korea's threats only strengthen our resolve to find a peaceful solution to the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, caused entirely by North Korea's illegal, threatening and provocative behaviour.

JOURNALIST: So does that mean you don't believe this is truly a credible threat?

JULIE BISHOP: North Korea has made such threats before. Our focus is on deterring North Korea from continuing to carry out illegal ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests and to compel it back to the negotiating table so that we can find a peaceful resolution to the rising tensions.

JOURNALIST: There's long been speculation our alliance with the US has put us in a more vulnerable position. How clear has Australia been with allies including the US that we are against military intervention?

JULIE BISHOP: I have been in regular contact with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and I know the Defence Minister Marise Payne has been in regular contact with the Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, and the United States collective strategy with its partners, allies and friends is to maximise the diplomatic and economic pressure. The United States has said that all options are on the table. That has been a longstanding United States policy but our focus is on ensuring that we can bring North Korea back to the negotiating table and this was the subject of the discussions with our South Korean counterparts.

JOURNALIST: Has Australian intelligence agencies carried out assessments on the likelihood of a North Korean attack on Australian soil?

JULIE BISHOP: I can assure you that Australian intelligence, defence, security and law enforcement agencies have the security of our nation continually under review. This is not the first time North Korea has made threats against Australia. North Korean threats only strengthen our resolve to find a peaceful solution to the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

JOURNALIST: So what then is the result of that assessment? Is it more likely that Korea will Australia as opposed to Guam or Japan or South Korea?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is not considered to be a primary target. North Korea is making threats against other nations in our region and that's why we're part of this collective strategy to impose the maximum pressure in a peaceful way, diplomatically and economically through sanctions to compel North Korea back to the negotiating table.

JOURNALIST: And at this stage, if there was conflict, would Australia enter the conflict on the side of the US?

JULIE BISHOP: Clearly Australia is against North Korea's illegal and provocative actions. We have to remember that North Korea is in direct defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions. This violation of these resolutions has the potential to undermine the authority of the UN Security Council and that's why we've been urging all permanent five members of the Security Council, that includes the United States, Russia, China, UK and France, to ensure its authority is not undermined and to work with partners and allies in maximising the pressure on North Korea, so that we can find a peaceful solution. That's our focus.

JOURNALIST: On another matter Minister, how does the government feel about the impending High Court decision, especially the one that relates to the Deputy Prime Minister?

JULIE BISHOP: The High Court has heard the submissions from all parties to the citizenship matter and has reserved its decision. So the government is patiently and appropriately awaiting the outcome.

JOURNALIST: And Labor says it won't support the government's energy package, if it doesn't include clear energy targets so how are you going to get this bill through Parliament?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian government is working very hard on developing an energy policy that will deliver reliable and affordable energy for all Australians, and we will take that energy policy to Cabinet and to our party room and then release it publicly. Labor and the Greens are undermining energy security and their policies will inevitably lead to higher prices and less reliability for energy. Our focus is on affordable, reliable energy for the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: Can the government credibly claim to be offering certainty that doesn't embrace a mechanism to send a market signal to drive investment in the sector?

JULIE BISHOP: All details of our policy will be released publicly once it's been through the Cabinet and the partyroom and I'm sure you'll have many questions to ask once you've seen the policy.

JOURNALIST: Can I take you back to North Korea? Is there intelligence to suggest North Korea will launch another missile test this week?

JULIE BISHOP: We have expectations that North Korea will continue its provocative behaviour. In the past it's been noted that North Korea seems to deliberately set out to embarrass China and has launched missile tests or carried out illegal nuclear tests at a time when China is showcasing the nation on the world stage. So there may be another provocative act by North Korea around the time of the 19th Party Congress. We hope not, but this seems to be a pattern of behaviour.

JOURNALIST: And you've previously said there'd be no Australian delegation to the rogue state, no reopening of an embassy in Pyongyang, given the most recent statement do you change your stance?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia has not had an embassy in North Korea since 1974 and I see no reason for Australia to reward North Korea for its provocative and illegal behaviour by opening an embassy there. North Korea has not had an embassy here since 2008 and again at this time it would not be appropriate and indeed it would be inconsistent with our condemnation of its illegal and provocative acts for us to welcome an ambassador from North Korea to Australia. We are part of a collective strategy that includes the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and others to maximise the peaceful pressure on North Korea through political, diplomatic and economic means including sanctions to deter it from carrying out further illegal tests and compel it back to the negotiating tables, so there can be a peaceful solution to the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

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