Interview with David Speers - Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE

DAVIDSPEERS: ForeignMinister, thanks so much for joining us. You've cautiously welcomed KimJong-un's statement about ending testing of nuclear weapons and long rangemissiles, but you do want him to go a lot further than that before anysanctions are eased.

JULIEBISHOP : FollowingNorth Korea's statements, I believe we need to see verifiable acts thatindicate North Korea will abide by the numerous UN Security Council resolutionsthat have banned the North Korean nuclear weapons program and the ballisticmissile program.

DAVIDSPEERS: Sothat means not just ending testing. It means actually dismantling, removing thenuclear weapons?

JULIEBISHOP : Well,we have seen this before. North Korea has made promises in the past and has nothonoured them. I'm cautiously optimistic that this is a step in the rightdirection, but we would need to see more than just a statement. We would needto see verifiable acts to show that they're genuine.

DAVIDSPEERS: And again,that too to actually dismantle what weapons have been produced in North Korea.

JULIEBISHOP : Indeed, all thinkthat the fact that the United States is planning a meeting with North Korea,that there are going to be negotiations, is positive. However, we would need tosee that North Korea is genuine in saying that it will halt testing. We alsoneed to see verifiable acts that it will act in accordance with the numerous UNSecurity Council resolutions.

DAVIDSPEERS: Andyou wouldn't want Australia to ease its sanctions until that happens?

JULIEBISHOP : I believe theinternational community must maintain maximum pressure in diplomatic, economicsanctions, in political pressure on North Korea, because clearly thisinternational maximum pressure campaign is working.

DAVIDSPEERS: But noeasing of sanctions until some verified proof those nuclear weapons are gone?

JULIEBISHOP : Because North Koreahas done this in the past, and we have seen on many occasions where North Koreahas made promises and then not honoured them. So we would need to see stepstaken to prove that they're genuine this time.

DAVIDSPEERS: Can Iturn to China - China's Defence Ministry has confirmed an exchange occurredbetween three Australian Navy vessels on April 15 in the South China Sea. Werethe Australian ships in international waters and did China, as far as you'reaware, respond appropriately?

JULIEBISHOP : I'm not going tocomment on operational matters involving our Defence Force, but I can assureyou that our Defence Force operate in accordance with international law.

DAVIDSPEERS: Do wedeserve to know how the men and women of our Defence Force are being treated byChina if they are in international waters, if they're not doing anything wrong?

JULIEBISHOP : Our Defence Forcesoperate in accordance with international law, and they did on this occasion andcontinue to do so. We operate in accordance with international law.

DAVIDSPEERS: Thisincident, occurring roughly a week ago, along with the Chinese Ambassador thisweek also expressing some concern about what he called systematic,irresponsible and negative remarks by Australia, saying they've hurt theirrelationship, and also the concerted push here in London by yourself, by theBritish as well, to try and counter China's influence in the Pacific region. Imean, how would you, Julie Bishop, characterise the relationship with Chinaright now?

JULIEBISHOP : We have differenceswith China from time to time, but they are one of our most important tradingpartners and we work closely with China at a range of levels, in business, inpolitics, in government, people-to-people. It's a very important partner for usin many aspects.

DAVIDSPEERS: But wouldyou say right now we're at a bit of a low point in the relationship?

JULIEBISHOP : There have beensome political differences, but we work together to resolve those differences,and that's what we're determined to do. In relation to CHOGM here in Londonthere has been an expression by Great Britain of wanting to be more global, bemore present globally, and we certainly welcome their interest in the Pacific.For example, the opening of three new British posts in the Pacific, which isnot only welcomed by Australia but welcomed by the Pacific leaders-

DAVIDSPEERS: WhichBoris Johnson- well, indeed. Boris Johnson, your counterpart, he says these arebeing opened to, quote, counter malign influence of countries who seek toundermine the UK and its allies. Is that why they're being opened?

JULIEBISHOP : Well, you'd have toask the British Government why…

DAVIDSPEERS: That'swhat he's saying, these are to counter the malign influence of countries tryingto undermine.

JULIEBISHOP : We have been encouragingGreat Britain, post-Brexit, to have a greater presence in our part of theworld. We need more infrastructure spending in the Pacific. There are estimatesthat trillions and trillions of dollars will be required by 2030 just tomaintain current economic growth. So we have been encouraging Great Britain,post-Brexit, to look again at the Pacific as somewhere that they could invest,where they could have a presence and also of course increase their trade inSouth East Asia.

DAVIDSPEERS: Butpartly to counter China's influence there?

JULIEBISHOP : We are looking toBritain to be part of an international effort to drive economic growth in thePacific. And in the past, in the recent past, most of Britain's aid wasdelivered via the European Union. Once Britain has exited the European Union wewant to ensure that Britain's aid budget is also invested in our part of theworld.

DAVIDSPEERS: Juston the relationship with China, though. When was the last time you actuallyvisited?

JULIEBISHOP : I was there 18months ago, and last year Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Australia. So we takeit turn and turn about. So, I was there in 2016 and then he was in Australia in2017, and we're planning for me to go in 2018. That's the way it works.

DAVIDSPEERS: Canyou share with us when that's likely to be? Are there any troubles with gettinga visa at the moment?

JULIEBISHOP : I'm not aware ofany. I see Foreign Minister Wang Yi at multilateral meetings, I see him atforums. In fact we have spent a lot of time together in the recent past.

DAVIDSPEERS: Thereis no diplomatic freeze at the moment?

JULIEBISHOP : I've been incontact with him, he's been back in contact with me. He, of course, wasappointed a State Councillor recently, and so I didn't visit China prior to himbeing confirmed as State Councillor and Foreign Minister and that happened inMarch. And so we're looking towards later this year for my meeting in China, butthey happen every other year.

DAVIDSPEERS: Wouldyou be willing to say that China does engage in cyber-attacks?

JULIEBISHOP : We are concernedwith any foreign cyber-attacks. I'm not going to name countries-

DAVIDSPEERS: Whynot name countries?

JULIEBISHOP : Because it's alloperational. You don't indicate to those necessarily that you know what's goingon. I mean…

DAVIDSPEERS: Well,the Prime Minister said just this week, quote: Russia engages in cyber-attacks,cyber-activity extensively in terms of covert activities.

JULIEBISHOP : Well, there havebeen two instances in recent times where we have named North Korea, in WannaCry,and also Russia, because they've been proven and they're matters that we cantalk about publicly.

DAVIDSPEERS: Whynot China? You can't name-

JULIEBISHOP : Well, I'm notgoing into areas where there hasn't been a public statement in relation to it.But of course we are very concerned about ensuring that cyberspace isregulated, that the laws that apply offline apply online. And we've beenworking very closely with China, with the European Union, with others, to getan agreement about an international set of rules that apply to cyber.

DAVIDSPEERS: Speakingof Russia, you've been critical of Russia on a range of fronts lately. Itscyber-attacks, nerve agent attack here on British soil last month, and mostrecently Russia frustrating the efforts of the UN Security Council to properlyinvestigate this chemical weapons attack a couple of weeks ago in Syria. Juston that, are you aware whether the independent inspectors have actually beenable to get into Douma in Syria and have a look at what evidence there is?

JULIEBISHOP : My understanding isthat they have not. My concern is that Russia, as a permanent member of the UNSecurity Council has been frustrating attempts to have an independent investigationinto the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

DAVIDSPEERS: Is itmisusing its veto power?

JULIEBISHOP : Well it isunconscionable that Russia should use its veto power to shield the Assad regimewhen 12 months ago there was an incident where the Assad regime used chemicalweapons. It was confirmed by the Organisation for the Prohibition AgainstChemical Weapons that it was the Assad regime, and now 12 months later asimilar attack and Russia is using its veto power to prevent an independentinvestigation into a very similar attack.

DAVIDSPEERS: Youwant a reform of the UN Security Council to stop that happening I suppose. Whatspecifically needs to change?

JULIEBISHOP : I think a number ofcountries are frustrated by the use of the veto in circumstances wherehumanitarian support is required and there's a veto to prevent it-

DAVIDSPEERS: ShouldRussia no longer have a veto power?

JULIEBISHOP : Well, it wouldobviously take a considerable deal of negotiation to make any change to the UNSecurity Council.

DAVIDSPEERS: Youhave to unscramble quite an egg.

JULIEBISHOP : What I'm doing ispointing out the fact that when a permanent member of the Security Council, whois charged with the responsibility of upholding international peace and security,uses the veto to prevent the upholding of international peace and security,well the system clearly needs to be looked at.DAVIDSPEERS: Imean, clearly this is frustrating that the inspectors can't get in, evidencecan't be collected, but does it mean that there is any doubt around Syria'sculpability, the Assad regime's culpability in that chemical weapons attack?

JULIEBISHOP : Not according toour information.

DAVIDSPEERS: So youare absolutely satisfied they were responsible?

JULIE BISHOP: We understand thatthe Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in recenttimes. It is similar to the attack that occurred 12 months ago…

DAVIDSPEERS: Andyou've been shown some evidence?

JULIEBISHOP : …and on thatoccasion the Organisation for the Prohibition Against Chemical Weaponsundertook an independent investigation and showed that it was the Assad regime.Well, why won't Russia allow another independent investigation to be undertakenin similar terms?

DAVIDSPEERS: Youindicated some information had been shared with Australia. I'm not expectingyou to share it with us publicly, but people wonder how you are satisfiedbefore supporting missile strikes. Can you just say there is some evidence youhave seen?

JULIEBISHOP : I understand thatthe Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attacks, and wesupported a calibrated, proportionate, targeted response, and that's whatoccurred.

DAVIDSPEERS: Afinal one, when it comes to your frustrations with Russia. I know there's notgoing to be a boycott of players going to the World Cup in Russia in June, butwhat about Government officials? Would you want any to go in this situation?

JULIEBISHOP : Well, that will bea matter for the officials to discuss with our intelligence and securityagencies. Obviously, we are deeply concerned about a pattern of behaviour onthe part of Russia - the Salisbury attack here in London, in England, thebehaviour of Russia in relation to the chemical weapons attack in Syria, and ofcourse I have had my own frustrations about the way the investigation into thedowning of MH17 has been frustrated by Russia's attempts to blame anybody elsebut the perpetrators for the downing of that plane.

DAVIDSPEERS: ForeignMinister Julie Bishop, thanks for joining us.

JULIEBISHOP : My pleasure.

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