Doorstop interview with Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: Thankyou Colonel Lee for hosting us here at the DMZ today. Australia's Defence Minister Senator MarisePayne and I are in South Korea for the third what's called "2+2" meetingbetween Australia and the Republic of Korea's Foreign and Defence Ministers. This is a timely visit, for theAustralia-South Korea relationship has never been closer or stronger. We have very deep economic ties; South Koreais our fourth largest trading partner; our fourth largest export market; and wehave a very beneficial Free Trade Agreement between our two countries.

We also havea very close and strong defence and security relationship. This morning we had a very detailed briefingfrom Director Suh of the National Intelligence Service. Australia stands with the Republic of Koreain solidarity against the provocative and illegal behaviour of NorthKorea. We reiterated our support for thecollective strategy of maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea,so that it will be compelled to return to the negotiating table. North Korea's actions are illegal, in defianceof eight UN Security Council resolutions, and Australia will play our part insupporting South Korea, our friends and allies, in deterring North Korea fromfurther provocative acts, and compelling it to return to the negotiating table. I'll ask my colleague to say a few words.

MARISE PAYNE: Thankyou very much Foreign Minister, and I want to acknowledge the United NationsCommand here this morning, Colonel Lee and the members of the combinedbattalion here from both the United States and South Korea. Their presence here, and our visit here tothe Demilitarised Zone, is a salutatory reminder of the importance of theeffort that has gone in, over decades, in this part of the world, in thisregion. Australia sent 17,000 members ofour defence forces to Korea in the 1950s, 340 of those defence forces made theultimate sacrifice.

ForAustralia, our relationship with South Korea is characterised in the way theForeign Minister has outlined it today, but also importantly by a sharedmilitary history as well. We are workingclosely in defence terms. We continue todo that, and we reiterate the words of the international community, read by theUnited Nations Security Council, that the behaviour of North Korea isprovocative, is illegal, and is in breach of United Nations sanctions. We stand with South Korea. We stand with the United States in theefforts that they are both making to ensure that the sanctions regime has the mostsignificant impact possible. Weencourage other members of the international community to equally apply thatfocus, that strength of application in relation to the sanctions. We look forward, the Foreign Minister and I,to extremely productive 2+2 talks with our South Korean counterparts here inSeoul tomorrow.

JOURNALIST: MinisterBishop, you've been closely communicating with Secretary Tillerson. And from your conversation with MinisterTillerson, how likely do you think military options will be on the table in theevent of North Korean military provocations, especially as they are threateninga hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific?

JULIE BISHOP: First,as we both stated, the actions of North Korea are illegal, they are in breachof numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions. The United States has a long-held policy thatall options are on the table when it comes to seeking to deter North Korea fromits current behaviour. The focus of theefforts of the United States, South Korea, Australia and others is to ensurethat maximum political, diplomatic, and economic pressure is placed on NorthKorea so that it changes its course. Andin my discussion with Secretary Tillerson and with Foreign Minister Kang theaim is to ensure a peaceful negotiated outcome to the current tensions. It is unacceptable for North Korea to launchillegal ballistic missiles over sovereign territories like Japan. It isunacceptable for North Korea in defiance of numerous UN Security Councilresolutions to develop a nuclear weapons program. And Australia has urged the UN SecurityCouncil, particularly the permeant five members, to uphold the authority of theUN Security Council, and not have its authority diminished in any way by NorthKorea.

JOURNALIST: MinisterPayne, Australia seems to be emphasising the idea of diplomatic and economicpressure on North Korea. So if PresidentTrump actually brings up the idea of actual military options on North Korea,does that mean that Australia may not be on the same page with the US in thenear future?

MARISE PAYNE: Soyou're correct in the beginning of your question that our absolute focus is onexercising the sanctions process to its most impactful outcome. And that is to change the approach of theNorth Korean regime. That is both apolitical, economic and diplomatic focus. But the US has made clear that military options remain on the table inthe event of the worst outcome. AndAustralia has made it very clear that we are working closely with the UnitedStates, working closely with South Korea, without wishing to engage inhypotheticals, our Prime Minister has made very clear our support for theUnited States. But most importantly, our support for regional stability andsecurity.

JOURNALIST: NorthKorea's ballistic missile range may reach Australia. Is Australia intending to purchase any kindof missile shield?

JULIE BISHOP: Australiadoes not see ourselves as a primary target. We believe that the provocative and belligerent behaviour is directedtowards others. However, we areconcerned to maintain regional stability and security.

MARISE PAYNE: Weconstantly review our options and our capability. Our focus is on ensuring theprotection of our deployed forces. Youwill see that Australia has recently commissioned our first air warfaredestroyer, HMAS Hobart, one of the three air warfare destroyers soon to comeinto operation. We have also made announcements recently in relation to theadoption of AEGIS combat system for our future frigates. We are very focused on ensuring that the ADFhas the capability it needs and whatever further requirements might be we keepunder constant review.

JOURNALIST: And in light of that isAustralia planning to increase Australian troops to the Korean Peninsula duringthe US-South Korea joint forces exercises.

MARISE PAYNE: Wellwe have a very strong presence in the Indo-Pacific region broadly, and also inthis region. We currently have a jointtask group which is travelling through the broad of the region, most recentlyin the Philippines, but in due course members of the vessels of the joint task groupwill also visit South Korea, and we look forward to that engagement.

JOURNALIST: Australiahas recently denied entrance of North Korean youth group leaders. Is that any sign that Australia is planningany kind of military relations shut down with North Korea?

JULIE BISHOP: Imade the decision to deny entry visas to the members of a North Korean soccerteam because I felt their presence would be inconsistent with Australia'sstated aim of placing maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on North Koreato ensure that it would change course. It would be inconsistent with the focus that Australia has in upholdingUN Security Council resolutions and implementing fully the range of tough andcomprehensive sanctions that must now apply to North Korea. It is also consistent with the view of manyother members of the international community to lessen, reduce, or completelydiminish any diplomatic relationship with North Korea.

JOURNALIST: How do you forecast NorthKorea's next provocation in the near future? There are possible dates coming up, possibly in October 18, or nextmonth when President Trump visits Asia. How do you forecast the future North Korean provocation?

JULIE BISHOP: Wedo expect that North Korea will continue with its provocative behaviour, butthe stronger the international community's response is, and the stronger theresponse to the sanctions is, the less options that North Korea will have. And the strategy is to deter North Korea fromcarrying out any further illegal acts and to compel it back to the negotiatingtable so that there is a peaceful resolution to the current crisis

JOURNALIST: It is very important that we putrestrictions on North Korean provocation, and many South Koreans are concernedabout the possibility of war breaking out. The Moon Administration is pursuing humanitarian aid to North Korea andis also pursuing conversation to talk. What do you think about this?

JULIE BISHOP: Weunderstand that South Korea has suffered for many decades from provocative actson the part of North Korea. NorthKorea's capability in terms of its ballistic missile and nuclear weaponsprograms has increased, and therefore the level of tension has also necessarilyincreased. We note that President Moonwishes to engage with North Korea, and most certainly our view is that whateversteps can be taken to bring North Korea to the negotiating table are worthpursuing. And I'm looking forward tohaving a deeper discussion with Foreign Minister Kang tomorrow and DefenceMinister Song in relation to the approach that South Korea is taking inrelation to North Korea's illegal acts.

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