Interview with Sabra Lane - ABC AM

  • Transcript, E&OE

SABRALANE: Joiningus now is Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Welcome to AM.

JULIEBISHOP: Goodmorning.

SABRALANE: In the space of nine months, we havegone from Mr Trump describing Kim Jong-un as 'Little Rocket Man', to praisinghim and saying he has a special bond. Sometimes you must scratch your head andwonder?

JULIEBISHOP: It'sbeen an extraordinary couple of months I have to say, but we should alsoremember that during that period, the UN Security Council unanimously proposedthe strongest economic sanctions ever on North Korea, and I believe that theapplication of those sanctions, backed by all five permanent members of theSecurity Council including Russia and China, has had a significant impact onthe thinking of Kim Jong-un and is one of the major reasons he was prepared tocome to the negotiating table. So not only was it an historic meeting becauseit is the first time a sitting US President has met with the North Koreanleader, it was also the first positive development we've seen in over a decadeinvolving North Korea, building on the first meeting between President Moon andKim Jong-un in April.

SABRALANE: KimJong-un is a dictator. He has had relatives executed. He has presided overfamine, millions of North Koreans are impoverished. How much trust doesAustralia have that he will live up to this agreement?

JULIEBISHOP: If youreread Justice Michael Kirby's Commission of Inquiry into human rights abusesin North Korea, it makes for a chilling picture of a brutal regime and I am notaware that any of the issues Michael Kirby spoke about have been addressed oreven recognised by the North Korean regime. So we are talking about a brutaldictator, but what's at stake - the threats to the stability of our region, theglobal threat of the use of nuclear weapons is too great. So this effort byPresident Trump has really changed the course of the discussion, has changedthe course, hopefully, of history. Mind you, the historic day will come when wesee the last nuclear weapon dismantled by North Korea.

SABRALANE: Onthat point, the text of what was released yesterday doesn't include the wordscomplete, verifiable, irreversible. They have been key words up to yesterday'smeeting. How concerning is that for you?

JULIEBISHOP: Thedeclaration is succinct. There are four points. Essentially there will becomplete denuclearisation. Now we are yet to see what North Korea means bycomplete denuclearisation because the United States has made it clear that theymeant complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of the nuclear weaponsprogram. Of course, the United States have provided security guarantees inexchange for this complete denuclearisation, but clearly it must be verified.We just can't take North Korea's word for it, so there will have to be a strongindependent investigation. Inspectors will need to go into North Korea to verifyand I would suggest the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency is bestplaced to do that. Indeed, overnight the Director General Amano has stated thatthe IAEA stands ready to work with the United States and North Korea to ensurethat there is this complete denuclearization. That is the bottom line. Thisagreement will only be as strong as the verification process that North Koreaallows to take place.

SABRALANE: You havesaid that Australia is going to assess what we can offer in this process ofverification. What could Australia commit? We've got history in this area.

JULIEBISHOP: Indeed,Australia has considerable technical expertise in analysing and detectingnuclear material. We work closely with the IAEA in Vienna. We have done this kindof work before. We have experts in the field and we of course would offer ourservices. The United States will also want to be involved. The President spokeabout this in his press conference, that there would need to be verifiable,concrete steps taken by North Korea. At this stage, the declaration is veryscant on detail. So there is a lot of work still to be done. I imagine manymore meetings, much more diplomatic work, but one meeting was never going to achieveall of the goals that we have set out.

SABRALANE: MrTrump also made reference to costs being involved in putting exercises with SouthKorea on hold and it prompted Lowy's Michael Fullilove to note that thePresident knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. What are thedangers in just valuing traditional alliances and relationships in straightdollar terms?

JULIEBISHOP: Wellit is obviously far more complex than that and relationships are built overhistory, personal connections, shared interests, values - there are a wholeraft of factors that come into play. I think that what we must focus on now isthe next steps between the United States and North Korea, but also South Korea,China and the UN Security Council. There are many players involved ineventually securing a lasting and enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula.

SABRALANE: TodayAustralia is signing a deal with the Solomon Islands regarding a high speedinternet cable. Relations are already pretty strained with China. How likely isit that this might stir things up given that Huawei originally was fated todeliver this cable?

JULIEBISHOP: PrimeMinister Rick Hou is in Canberra. The Prime Minister and I met with him lastnight and we are meeting again with him today. Australia is a longstanding aidpartner for Solomon Islands. You will of course recall that when SolomonIslands was in disarray back in the 2000s, Australia led the RegionalAssistance Mission – RAMSI - to restore law and order and build capacity andwork with the Solomon Islands Police Force. So we are a longstanding partner ofSolomon Islands. We offered them an alternative to an undersea cable project.We believe that the alternative we have offered is cheaper, faster, morereliable than that offered by the competitor, and we want Solomon Islands andindeed other countries in the Pacific to have alternatives, to have options andAustralia is well placed to offer that.

SABRALANE: Mightthat upset Beijing further?

JULIEBISHOP: It's acompetitive world. We put forward an alternative and the Solomon Islands areaccepting it.

SABRALANE: AustraliansJames Ricketson is facing trial in Cambodia on Friday on charges of espionage.How confident are you that he is going to get a fair trial?

JULIEBISHOP: Wehave made representations to the Cambodian Government. I have written to mycounterpart, the Foreign Minister. The Prime Minister and I raised it directlywith the Cambodian Prime Minister when he was here for the ASEAN-Australia Leaders'Summit in March. Mr Ricketson does have a legal team, he has lawyers acting forhim who are advising him. We have provided consular assistance - our officialshave visited him on over 20, I think about 22 occasions to check on hiswellbeing and provide support. There is a limit to how far we can go inintervening on behalf of an Australian citizen in the legal proceedings of anothercountry, but we have certainly made our interests known and our concerns knownto the government.

SABRALANE: JulieBishop, thank you for joining AM thismorning.

JULIEBISHOP: Mypleasure.

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