Doorstop interview - New York

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: I'm in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Annual Leaders' Week. While Australia will be engaged in many meetings and conferences, our priorities are to focus on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and working with the international community to compel North Korea to change its behaviour on its weapons and missile programs; also the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State and working with Myanmar to resolve that issue; and my third priority will be the global effort in countering terrorism. Today, I have met with colleagues to discuss climate change, an event hosted by the United States. I also attended President Trump's event at the United Nations on UN reform, and I have attended a meeting called by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, to discuss the Myanmar issue and the crisis in Rakhine State. I have met with some counterpart foreign ministers and the meetings will continue tomorrow. So it's going to be a very busy, but hopefully a productive time here at UNGA Leaders' week.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the President today said the United Nations had not reached its full potential due to mismanagement and bureaucracy, do you agree with that?

JULIE BISHOP: The United Nations has been subject to criticism ever since it was formed 70 years ago, and if there are ideas and ways that we can improve the performance of United Nations, then of course, Australia would welcome them. We want to ensure it is the most effective, efficient organisation it can be, and we were pleased President Trump has supported UN reform, which I understand will be led by the Secretary General of the United Nations.

JOURNALIST: Minister, how helpful is the language that the President is using, saying "it's too bad there are long lines for fuels in North Korea"?

JULIE BISHOP: Well clearly, we want to find a solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. The United States is an essential part of that solution, but they are not the only country that is involved. It does require an international response, because all countries must uphold the sanctions that must be fully implemented against North Korea. There has to be maximum diplomatic, political and economic pressure by all countries to ensure that North Korea doesn't continue to be an international threat, a risk to not only to the security of our region, but globally.

JOURNALIST: But what about those comments though, surely they're not helpful?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that's a matter for the United States to use the language that it seems to believe will work in terms of curbing North Korea's behaviour. Australia's interest is in urging all countries to fully implement the sanctions – those that were mandated by the Security Council on 5 August, and those on 11 September. As a package, it comprises the toughest, most comprehensive set of sanctions against North Korea, and when they have a chance to be fully implemented, I believe they will have impact on North Korea and change its behaviour.

JOURNALIST: President Trump's made some very negative comments about the United Nations over the last 12 months in particular, what's the atmosphere in there like given it's his first visit?

JULIE BISHOP: I think there was a great deal of interest at the fact that President Trump's first appearance at the United Nations was at an event supported by over 120 countries looking for reform with the UN - and so that was a very positive sign. Secretary General Guterres welcomed the President's words about reforming the UN, and wishes to work with the United States and others. Of course, the United States has been a significant contributor to funding the United Nations, and wants to see a more efficient, less bureaucratic and more effective United Nations, as we all do, and that was certainly echoed by the United Nations Secretary General.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Security Council should go for another round of sanctions down the track? Do you think that is politically possible?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, I believe that there is room for further sanctions. Australia will be calling for the toughest possible sanctions, but we must ensure that the ones that are currently agreed upon are implemented. For the first time these cover sector wide sanctions, covering a significant part of the North Korean economy. With the package on 5 August and the package on 11 September, I believe that we will see an impact on North Korea and the idea is to compel it to return to the negotiating table and that is the type of discussion I have been having with a number of foreign ministers. How do we get North Korea back to the negotiating table? The view is that political, diplomatic and economic pressure must be brought to bear, maximum pressure must be brought to bear. That does mean that there is obviously room for further sanctions should we not see the impact of the current round.

JOURNALIST: With many world leaders here, why was the decision made that the Prime Minister wouldn't come this time?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, Prime Ministers do not always attend, not all world leaders attend Leaders' Week and it is a question of priorities. I am the head of Australia's delegation. I have been the head of delegation on a number occasions. This is my 5th UNGA Leaders' Week and I am looking forward to representing Australia's interests here.

JOURNALIST: Minister, there's a report that the CIA asked Australia to set up a diplomatic presence in North Korea and that that was rejected. Can you confirm that report?

JULIE BISHOP: I do not discuss intelligence and security issues, I wouldn't discuss a matter involving the CIA.

JOURNALIST: Isn't the reality now containing a nuclear armed North Korea rather than disarming it? Isn't that the reality? Military (INAUDIBLE) just is just not an option.

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that we should allow the diplomatic and political and economic pressure to be brought to bear, and these sanctions have only just been announced. They will take some time to have an impact. A number of them relate to foreign workers whose contracts will be allowed to expire - they won't be renewed. But this will take some time for the impact on, say the prohibition on foreign workers to take effect. The prohibition against textile exports will take some time to take effect. Also, the prohibition on the export of coal, lead, iron ore and seafood are significant sanctions and I believe they should be given time to work.

JOURNALIST: We don't have time, isn't that the problem. I mean, they are marching steadily towards being able to strike America.

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that the North Korean regime is seeking to maximise its leverage in order to get the best possible negotiating position with the United States. Now we want to see North Korea return to the negotiating table and we need to exert considerable economic pressure, as we have done in the past, and that has happened in the past when North Korea has been subjected to sanctions, certainly not as comprehensive as the current round of sanctions, but they have returned to the negotiating table and that is what we are seeking to do.

JOURNALIST: You met your Japanese counterpart, what sort of alarm was there with two North Korean missiles going over their country the last two weeks?

JULIE BISHOP: I did meet Foreign Minister Kono and he spoke of the deep anguish in Japan over this issue. People in Japan are wakening to alarms to advise them that a missile is likely. This is obviously deeply unsettling and we agreed again to work closely with Japan to ensure that the maximum diplomatic, economic and political pressure is brought to bear on North Korea. North Korea's behaviour is illegal, they are in direct defiance of numerous Security Council resolutions, and so we, of course want to work with Japan, South Korea and others to ensure we can do what we can as part of a collective strategy to get North Korea to change its direction and change its behaviour.

JOURNALIST: Minister, have you seen anything in North Korea's actions to show that it is willing to change its behaviour?

JULIE BISHOP: Obviously North Korea's program of missiles and nuclear weapons is increasing in tempo and scale, but I believe it can be deterred and I believe that through international pressure, then North Korea can change its behaviour. Obviously it wants to be in the best possible negotiating position, that's why we are seeing such an overt display of capability when it comes to ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, but I believe deterrence can occur.

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