Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister Julie Bishop joins me and Minister I know you arrived in Bali just minutes after that magnitude 7 quake. Can you give us an update on what the response is and any Australians caught up in it?

JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Kieran. The death toll is rising, local authorities now put it at about 98, but it could well go higher and our thoughts are with the families of those affected by this earthquake. It is the second in a week and it's a very significant one. There were aftershocks last night. There is widespread damage on Lombok island. We have been in contact with a number of Australians but thankfully there are no reports of Australian casualties or serious injuries. We have five consular staff now on Lombok. They are based in Senggigi in the north and also at Lombok airport and available to assist Australians in need. Also, on Gili Island there are a number of Australians. Some are choosing to stay, others are seeking to be evacuated, but it's only accessible by boat, so that can take some time. We urge Australians to work with the local authorities and to keep track of social media or local media to keep updated as to what's happening. But it is a very serious situation with quite considerable loss of property and, tragically, loss of life.

KIERAN GILBERT: Indonesia, the archipelago as we know is on the ring of fire, it is quake-prone, is there more that Australia can do, when you speak to your colleague Retno Marsudi, about aid, about assistance more broadly?

JULIE BISHOP: I have been in contact with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. She will be in Bali today, I will meet with her. We're co-chairing the Bali Process meeting which relates to people smuggling and human trafficking and so I will be spending time with her. We have made the offer, the Indonesian Government has not sought assistance at this stage, but we have provided some supplies to Indonesian Red Cross. We have pre-positioned supplies in Java for natural disasters and so we have given some of that equipment – tents, lighting and the like – to Indonesian Red Cross for them to distribute.

KIERAN GILBERT: You've had a busy few weeks in the region. You met the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently. He said after your talks that Australia can do more to boost mutual trust rather than making groundless suspicion. What does he mean by that do you think?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, that's what he said. We had a very good discussion, about three-quarters of an hour, discussing a whole range of issues. I believe he was referring to our foreign interference legislation. But we had a very positive discussion about the Australia-China bilateral relationship. I know that the line that the media pick up might be the negative line but the whole discussion was very positive and we talked about areas of mutual interest and how we could work together in the Pacific and we discussed a number of initiatives where China and Australia can be doing more together. He also said that there's more we can do and I agree, both Australia and China can do, to strengthen and deepen our relationship.

KIERAN GILBERT: On that front, have you finalised a time for when you're going to visit Beijing?

JULIE BISHOP: We discussed that and we're working on a time when we're both in Beijing, at the same time. We discussed going for a run together, so we are planning on a visit, and hopefully there'll be an early-morning run with the Chinese Foreign Minister at the same time.

KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, I know, my understanding is you've met with the North Korean Foreign Minister as well. Can you give us an update on that and is your sense they are showing good faith when it comes to the denuclearisation because there's speculation this morning that there's going to be another leaders' summit before Christmas.

JULIE BISHOP: The Foreign Minister of North Korea, Foreign Minister Ri, attended the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore. This is virtually the only meeting where the North Korean Foreign Minister is in attendance, so I took the opportunity to talk to him about the leaders' meeting and North Korea's commitment to denuclearisation. He was non-committal. But I also took the opportunity to raise the issue of the 43 Australian soldiers still missing in action after the Korean War and he took on board the details. I noted that the Americans had received the remains of some of their soldiers after the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un and I asked that the Australians also be able to access the sites and we offered forensic assistance and offered expert assistance so that we can recover those Australian remains of soldiers after the Korean War and he took that on board.

KIERAN GILBERT: But you want, in the meantime, the sanctions to remain more broadly until they provide proof that they are undertaking that denuclearisation?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, absolutely. We want to see the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program and until we see concrete steps that they are genuine, to prove that they will dismantle, then the economic and political and diplomatic pressure on North Korea must remain, in accordance with the unanimous United Nations Security Council resolutions.

KIERAN GILBERT: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop I appreciate your time from Bali this morning, thank you.

JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Kieran.

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