Interview with Fran Kelly - ABC RN Breakfast

  • Transcript, E&OE

FRAN KELLY: Our Foreign Minister joins us now. Julie Bishop, thank you for getting up very early in Perth to speak with us. Good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Happy to do so, Fran. Good morning.

FRAN KELLY: The pictures out of South Korea looked great, the words were promising. Is the world a safer place yet?

JULIE BISHOP: Without doubt Friday's summit with President Moon and Kim Jong-un was a welcome and really important first step in diplomatic dialogue with North Korea, particularly because the Pamunjom Declaration commits to complete denuclearisation and a durable peace on the Korean Peninsula. However we should remain cautious. North Korea hasn't honoured several promises to denuclearise in the past and that is why we should continue to demand concrete commitments and practical steps and independent verification of any disarmament promises.

FRAN KELLY: Does the North deserve any rewards yet? As you say, it has a track record of making promises, of extracting concessions by offering up peace only to secretly resume its nuclear program, do you think that sanctions against North Korea need to remain in place indefinitely, keep maximum pressure on?

JULIE BISHOP: I certainly think the UN Security Council Resolution sanctions remain in place. I think diplomatic and economic pressure should be maintained until North Korea takes genuine steps towards denuclearisation. It certainly improves the chances for a US-North Korea summit proceeding and latest indications are from the US that that would occur by June, but the United States must continue to press for more details and accountability mechanisms around how the North will dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. I think the international community must continue to demand a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program and an end to its ballistic missile programs.

FRAN KELLY: Kim Jong-un is offering to, of course, end all testing and the closure of that testing site and now he has invited experts and journalists in to witness that. Now, that's not complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation by any stretch but it is more verification then we've seen. How meaningful do you see these actions?

JULIE BISHOP: That is a very positive step that North Korea has announced it would cease nuclear testing and that it would allow international inspectors to independently verify the dismantling of their main nuclear test site. I again say that we have been down that path before, after the 2000 Olympics. North Korea and South Korea were working towards some kind of settlement but after 6 months North Korea kicked out the independent inspectors.

Independent verification would be a very positive sign of Kim's willingness to engage with the outside world but there is a long way to go to achieve the broader dismantlement of North Korea's illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

FRAN KELLY: When we talk about denuclearisation, or more particularly, when North Korea talks about it, it regards it to mean not just that it gets rid of its nuclear weapons but the US should no longer extend its nuclear umbrella to protect South Korea. Would the US ever give that up? Would the South ever agree to that happening?

JULIE BISHOP: This is getting into the hypotheticals. What would the US give up-

FRAN KELLY: Does it mean both sides?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, a lot of speculation is about whether the US would take their troops off the Korean Peninsula. What is clear is that North Korea has come to the table to escape the crippling economic and diplomatic pressure, and no doubt the threat of military action, but I don't believe that the UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea will be lifted until the Security Council is satisfied that North Korea has truly chosen a new path.

I think the first step, before we look at any other action on the part of the, for example, the other parties to the Armistice agreement, which includes China and the United States of course, the North Korean regime will have to show that it really has chosen a new path.

FRAN KELLY: Donald Trump as we heard is taking the credit for Friday's summit between the two Korean leaders. His supporters are already chanting 'Nobel, Nobel', do you think he is going to get a Nobel Prize? Will he deserve it if he ended up having a peace on the Peninsula?

JULIE BISHOP: Without doubt, if we were to witness a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula and a denuclearised Korean Peninsula, that would be an extraordinary outcome and would be deserving of the highest praise in terms of removing a regional and global security threat and achieving peace after 65 years. There is a long way to go and so I, at this stage, of course, pay tribute to President Trump for the role he has played, for the role that President Moon has played, South Korea's leader, and also what China has done as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and North Korea's neighbour. China has always played an essential role with North Korea but this time China has joined in with the other members of the Security Council in imposing the toughest sector-wide sanctions on North Korea ever, and so a number of parties must take credit for this. I do say that the international community, including Australia, has also played a role in exerting maximum economic, political and diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

FRAN KELLY: You're listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest is Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Julie Bishop, members of the UN Security Council have been hearing evidence from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh about the campaign of violence, rape and arson they endured at the hands of Myanmar's military and also discussing the question of whether it is safe to return to Myanmar, what is your assessment? Should they be repatriated?

JULIE BISHOP: Of course they should be repatriated but at a time when it is safe for them to return. I met with the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the weekend and she expressed her deep concern that at this point it would not be safe for them to return. That's why she is asking for more support from the international community to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the 700,000 displaced people from Rakhine State in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. We would need confirmation, a guarantee from Myanmar that it would be safe for the Rohingyas to return.

FRANK KELLY: And how engaged in this is Australia? We spoke to Kenneth Roth, Head of Human Rights Watch, recently, who was here, he was arguing that Australia needs to step up and do more to ensure the Rohingya are not repatriated before their safety can be guaranteed and also Australia should be doing more to support Bangladesh. What more can Australia do, or are you planning to do?

JULIE BISHOP: Clearly he is misguided because Australia is very deeply involved. I have met with Sheikh Hasina, I have met with the Bangladesh Foreign Minister on numerous occasions, I attended a number of meetings at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting focusing entirely on the matter of Myanmar, Bangladesh and the plight of the Rohingyas. Yesterday we announced a further $15 million in humanitarian support for the Rohingyas. It's in addition to the $31.5 million we had already provided. The latest funding is in response to the concerns about the upcoming monsoon season in Bangladesh in that region and we are providing food and shelter and food services. We are working in conjunction with global and Australian NGOs to ensure that we can provide these basic services to the Rohingya. We continue to engage at the highest level with Aung San Suu Kyi to urge upon her the need for there to be an independent investigation, for Myanmar to support the recommendations of the Kofi Annan lead investigation and for her to show global leadership and allow the Rohingyas to return.

FRAN KELLY: Okay. Can I ask you on the trade front, not your portfolio I know, but the temporary exemption from Donald Trump's new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports runs out tomorrow. Has Australia received any assurances that that exemption for our products will continue?

JULIE BISHOP: The Prime Minister and President Trump had a discussion about this as you know and the Government has made a very strong case to the United States for Australian steel and aluminium exports to be exempted from tariffs and we're continuing to press our case.

FRAN KELLY: But that was temporary, do you know if we've got any further reprieve?

JULIE BISHOP: We are ensuring that our steel and aluminium exports are exempted. Our exports don't pose a threat to US national security, we've got the closest possible military and security alliance with the US and in addition our economic relationship is very close. The Prime Minister and other Ministers have been relentless in our advocacy for Australia and we will continue to ensure that we receive that exemption. The majority of Australian exports of steel to the United States are exported for further processing in the United States so Australian steel exports support around 3,000 US manufacturing jobs both directly and indirectly and that's the point we've been making to the US Administration, including in my conversation with Mike Pompeo, the new Secretary of State, last week.

FRAN KELLY: Just bringing it home now, the revelation that the Departments of Home Affairs and Defence were talking about looking at changing the laws to allow the Australian Signals Directorate to spy on Australians. This was top secret correspondence leaked to the media, it's now being investigated by the Australian Federal Police, you're a member of the National Security Committee of Cabinet, how concerned are you that material as sensitive as this is being leaked and who do you think is doing the leaking?

JULIE BISHOP: First, there has been no request to the Minister for Defence to allow the Australian Signals Directorate to counter or disrupt cyber -

FRAN KELLY: No, but this correspondence clearly was having a discussion at the highest levels of Defence and Home Affairs.

JULIE BISHOP: I am just making the point that that is not what the correspondence said. So I am just assuring your listeners that there is no plan by the Government to allow Australian Signals Directorate to collect intelligence against Australians or to covertly collect private data. The second point is of course any leak from Government is concerning and I understand that the Australian Federal Police is investigating.

FRAN KELLY: Who do you think has done the leaking?

JULIE BISHOP: That's what the Australian Federal Police will find out.

FRAN KELLY: Julie Bishop, thank you very much for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

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