Interview on 2GB with Ben Fordham

  • Transcript, E&OE

BEN FORDHAM: Julie Bishop is on the line, Foreign Minister good afternoon.

JULIE BISHOP: Good afternoon Ben, how are you?

BEN FORDHAM: You sound perfectly healthy to me.

JULIE BISHOP: I did have a touch of laryngitis over the weekend but I think I've talked my waythrough it if that's possible.

BEN FORDHAM: You'll be doing lots of talking today. Look, there'd be people listening at the moment Foreign Minister who would be most concerned when we hear about North Korea ramping things up and firing missiles over Japanese territory – do we need to be worried here in Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: This is a serious escalation in the ongoing provocative behaviour of the North Korean regime. Let's face it, to fire a ballistic missile over the territory of another nation has to be interpreted as dangerous and threating, but what North Korea is doing is illegal, and they have to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions that have banned such tests.

Of course we're deeply concerned but the collective strategy of the nations affected, including Japan, South Korea, China, the United States, Australia and others, is to apply ever stronger sanctions against North Korea which will make it recalculate the risk it is undertaking. These sanctions are yet to be fully implemented but they will have an impact over the next few weeks and they are severe, they are comprehensive and they are very tough, and we hope that this will then bring North Korea to the Negotiating table.

BEN FORDHAM: He doesn't seem like the kind of bloke Kim Jong Un that is going to worry about sanctions which are probably only going to punish his people as opposed to him. Is that a tough enough response when you've got one nation firing missiles and we fire sanctions in response?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes except that any retaliation could have catastrophic consequences. We know that North Korea fires ballistic missiles to draw attention to its plight, it wants to bring the United States to the negotiating table. The question is under what conditions can negotiations resume.

North Korea has increased the pace and tempo of its ballistic missile testing and it is deeply concerning but we really have to ensure that the authority of the UN Security Council is upheld and so all nations, particularly the permanent 5 members of the Security Council, must fully implement the sanctions on North Korea.

They will be tough. For the first time we are imposing several full sector bans, so that's all exports on say, coal – that's North Korea's largest export – will be banned, a ban on all its iron ore and iron ore exports, a ban on its seafood, a ban on lead and lead ore exports. This is worth a lot of money to the regime that they normally spend on their nuclear and weapons programs, and we continue to urge North Korea to direct its precious resources to supporting the impoverished people of North Korea rather than continue down this risky and dangerous and provocative path

BEN FORDHAM: We're speaking to the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister you say Australia is ready to assist Japan in any way we can, does Japan have a right here to retaliate?

JULIE BISHOP: This is not technically an 'act of aggression'. What North Korea is seeking to do is draw attention to its capability if you like. What it wants to do is show that is has this capacity to launch ballistic missiles, but it does strengthen the resolve of Australia and its allies and partners to place further pressure on Pyongyang to change its behaviour.

Japan acted with great restraint. You'll note that the missile flew over Japan, it landed about 1,000km east of Japan and clearly Japan had the capacity but did not shoot it down. It assessed the missile's trajectory, assessed that it would pass over Japan and not cause damage to the mainland, and of course analysing the performance of the test missile would provide our partners valuable intelligence and insights with respect to the growing capability of the North Korean missile program.

BEN FORDHAM: But it's not viewed as an act of aggression, firing that missile?

JULIE BISHOP: We've got to be very careful in using words in this context. An act of aggression generally refers to an invasion or an attack by the armed forces of one state against a territory or armed forces of another. The definition of an act of aggression is actually set out in the UN resolutions.

The ballistic missile that flew over Japanese territory this morning was certainly threatening, certainly dangerous, certainly provocative but what it didn't do was actually cause damage to Japan so with issues as serious as this and in such a tense environment we have to use words very carefully and precisely.

BEN FORDHAM: Can't you go over there and sort this bloke out, Kim Jong Un? Can't you use all of your charms in the world to disarm him?

JULIE BIHSOP: I think that a great deal of diplomatic and political and economic pressure still has to be brought to bear. I spoke to the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday and he made it clear that United States wants to resolve this peacefully. Of course all options are on the table, as President Trump put it – military options are on the table, but that's been the position of many administrations in the past. President Trump's language is more robust, more forthright but all US administrations have said that military options remain on the table. Secretary Tillerson made it quite clear that what they are seeking to do is resolve this through diplomatic, political and economic pressure.

The sanctions that have just been imposed have got to have time to work and we will see that over the coming days and weeks.

BEN FORDHAM: Just lastly, you've offered to send defence personnel to the Philippines to advise and assist in the fight against Islamic State, this is getting a lot closer to our backyard, isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP: We are prepared to assist any of our neighbours, any countries in our region who are facing the threat of increasing terrorism and the Philippines, in the southern Philippines, which has been an area of conflict for some time, is now seeing Islamic State inspired fighters joining up with militants, and rebels and criminal networks to carry out attacks on civilians in cities in the southern Philippines.

This is in our neighbourhood and we are concerned that it will act as a magnet for returning foreign terrorist fighters from Iraq and Syria as the Coalition's efforts to defeat ISIS in the Middle East are taking hold. Then those who survive, those terrorists who survive, may well seek to go to the Philippines. That's why we are prepared to offer support, just as we have done in Iraq, the United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, other countries, have offered the Philippines more support but at present the Armed Forces Philippines are fighting back. We are providing surveillance, intelligence and information sharing at this point.

BEN FORDHAM: Alright, we'd better let you go so you can preserve that voice. You're going to have some interesting and important things to talk about over the coming days. Can I give you a tip on fixing the throat?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, please.

BEN FORDHAM: Liquid chlorophyll, ginger powder, manuka honey – all mixed into boiling water.

JULIE BISHOP: And do I gargle it or swallow it?

BEN FORDHAM: Swallow it.

JULIE BISHOP: Ok, I'll take your advice on that one and perhaps your listeners can send in something that sounds a little less complicated.

BEN FORDHAM: Thanks for your time Minister.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure Ben.

BEN FORDHAM: Julie Bishop the Foreign Minister joining us on the line.

- Ends -

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