Doorstop interview

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Minister, Japan has revealed that it has emergency plans in place to evacuate its 600,000 residents from South Korea if needed. Is Australia working on similar plans? Also, is the Government looking at upgrading its travel advice to South Korea?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia has in place comprehensive contingency plans in all our overseas posts, particularly in this instance, in Seoul and Tokyo. We are also working with our partners and allies in relation to comprehensive contingency plans should there be a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

In relation to our travel advice, it is constantly updated and I believe that it reflects the current situation as it's unfolding on the Korean Peninsula.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister and President Trump this morning spoke about continuing to encourage China to use its economic leverage to bring North Korea to its senses. What exactly though can we – what leverage do we have with China to do that?

JULIE BISHOP: President Trump and Prime Minister Turnbull had a very warm and constructive discussion this morning on a range of topics but they did focus on the situation unfolding on the Korean Peninsula and they both observed that North Korea's illegal actions represents a grave threat to regional stability and we see North Korea as a risk to global security. The President and Prime Minister discussed the ways that maximum diplomatic, political and economic pressure could be brought to bear on North Korea. That will include significant economic pressure through additional sanctions and it's to be noted that China has the most significant economic relationship with North Korea therefore we will be urging China to use its undoubted leverage over North Korea to compel North Korea to change its behaviour and deter North Korea from further illegal ballistic weapons or ballistic missile or nuclear weapons testing.

JOURNALIST: Has the US asked Australia for any assistance in regards to the Korean Peninsula and then secondly, the US has offered South Korea further military assistance and there's talk in South Korea of tactical nuclear weapons being placed on the Korean Peninsula, further weapons, is it possible that this will increase tensions?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is in constant communication, both the Prime Minister and I are in contact with our counterparts in the United States, Japan, Korea and we are discussing ways that we can focus pressure in diplomatic and economic terms on North Korea. We recognise the right of nations to legitimately adopt self-defensive practices and we certainly support South Korea in its efforts to defend itself from any hostile act or aggression from North Korea. We are working closely with our partners to focus on the additional economic sanctions. I understand that the United States will be circulating an additional resolution for adoption by the Security Council next week, that's the focus of our events at this point.

JOURNALIST: If conflict breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, should Australia send troops in? How far is too far in terms of our own involvement?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is focused on political, diplomatic and economic solutions. It would be catastrophic for there to be an outbreak of military intervention in response to conflict on the Korean Peninsula. What we are doing is focusing our efforts on a peaceful resolution. It's undoubtedly in Australia's interests and the interests of the region that there be a peaceful resolution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns about President Trump's often bombastic rhetoric when it comes to North Korea?

JULIE BISHOP: The President has adopted forthright and frank language but the policy remains the collective strategy of a number of nations. Indeed previous US administrations took the view that all options were on the table including military options. That continues to be the position of the United States. The tensions on the Korean Peninsula are because of the continued illegal tests conducted by North Korea in flagrant breach of successive UN Security Council resolutions, so the tensions, the crisis is caused unquestionably by the behaviour of the North Korean regime.

JOURNALIST: Are there any indications by China that they might assist in terms of these additional sanctions, like they've talked about oil and that kind of thing, and then secondly could you give us any update on the Philippines in terms of whether or not they've accepted any Australian offer of assistance?

JULIE BISHOP: First, Defence Minister Marise Payne will be in both Seoul and Philippines this week and she will have more to say about her discussions with counterparts in both South Korea and Philippines.

Secondly, in relation to China and economic sanctions, China was part of the unanimous resolution on 5 August to embrace the toughest and most comprehensive set of sanctions against North Korea to date and China has made it clear that it will fully implement those sanctions and they will have a significant impact on North Korea in due course – that is the banning of exports from North Korea of coal, lead, iron, iron-ore, seafood, a ban on new work visas for North Korean citizens, sanctions on their foreign trading bank which is a primary source of foreign capital into North Korea. So these sanctions will bite and will bite hard. However, I understand that all permanent five members of the Security Council are considering the possibility of additional sanctions across other sectors of the North Korean economy. Previously, prior to the 5 August resolution, the sanctions against North Korea tended to be against individuals or entities involved in the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs now they are sector-wide economic sanctions that will have a significant impact and I understand that all the Permanent Five are considering what additional economic pressure can be brought to bear on North Korea to make it change its calculation of risk over its illegal behaviour.

JOURNALIST: So you're not disheartened by Vladimir Putin's comments last night that sanctions are ineffective and the North Koreans would rather eat grass than give up their nuclear weapons?

JULIE BISHOP: Not at all. In fact the tough, comprehensive sanctions are yet to have an impact and I believe that we must continue to pursue every avenue, every effort must be made to continue to pursue every avenue in political, diplomatic and economic terms. We have a long way to go in terms of exhausting those avenues before any other considerations should be taken.

JOURNALIST: What might further sanctions target?

JULIE BISHOP: There's a whole range of sectors of the North Korean economy. So far they're targeting coal, lead, iron-ore, seafood; so there are many other sectors of the economy, there are other financial institutions, there of course is energy security which has been discussed on a number of occasions in relation to oil.

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