JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, the deal from yesterday, it seems as though that the more that President Trump expanded yesterday, the wording of the deal seemed to be getting more scarce by the minute. Are you concerned that this really is only a work towards something that North Korea has already committed to do for decades?
JULIE BISHOP: One summit was never going to achieve everything that we are seeking from North Korea. The Declaration is very succinct. There are four points to it. The most important aspect though is that North Korea has committed to complete denuclearisation, of course in exchange for security guarantees, but the detail is still to be worked through. There will be many more meetings, there will be much more dialogue, a lot of diplomatic work still to be done. The historic aspect of it of course is it is the first time that a sitting US President has met with a leader of North Korea, but more importantly it's the first positive development we've seen in relation to North Korea in well over a decade, building on the meeting between the President of South Korea and Kim Jong-un in April, and now this meeting with the US President. So much work is still to be done.
JOURNALIST: Given the opportunity, were you hoping for more?
JULIE BISHOP: I was cautiously optimistic that the meeting would end in some kind of agreement, and that has occurred. There is a document - a four point Declaration - and we can now build on that, but there was some concern that the meeting wouldn't go ahead only a few weeks ago. So the fact that the meeting has occurred is something of a breakthrough.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister - the wording that you would like to see, because we know that words are very important in foreign affairs, so what is the wording that you would have liked to have seen brought from the North Korea side of the bargain?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, most certainly the wording that the United States has been using - complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the nuclear weapons program - and that has to occur before the sanctions can be lifted and before there can be an enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula. So complete, verifiable, irreversible - and I note that overnight the International Atomic Energy Agency has offered to be involved in the verification process. I've offered Australia's services because we have expertise in that regard, but the strength of this agreement will only be as good as the verification process that North Korea allows.
JOURNALIST: One last thing on that – suspension for suspension – the suspending of war games that the United States does for the suspension of nuclear activities in the North Korean Peninsula was actually the wording that came out of Moscow and Beijing - were you surprised by the fact that so early in the piece the United States has offered the suspension of war games? How does Australia feel about that?
JULIE BISHOP: I don't believe that suspension for suspension has actually been agreed. The Declaration sets out the four points of agreement. The President has raised a whole range of other issues in his press conference but I think it is too early to say that anything like suspension for suspension has occurred.
JOURNALIST: Have you had any indication that those additional points raised by Donald Trump in his press conference were raised with Kim Jong-un?
JULIE BISHOP: Clearly the President said that a number of matters were raised – for example, he said that the issue of Japanese abductions was raised, he said the issue of human rights was raised, he said that the complete, verifiable denuclearisation was raised. So there are a number of issues that he said he raised with North Korea, but the Declaration raises only four points, and that's the starting point. That the basis for all where we go from here. That's what we have two work with.
JOURNALIST: Does that indicate to you that Kim Jong-un is perhaps not open to those other-
JULIE BISHOP: I don't think we can draw that conclusion. It was one meeting, and we should never have expected that everything would have been resolved in one meeting. There was always going to have to be further work, and this could take months, years even. Our concern, of course, is that North Korea is yet to show genuine steps in denuclearisation, and they have made agreements in the past. North Korea has even signed agreements and then walked away from them, they have not honoured the agreements they've made in the past. So the test now is that this Declaration that was signed with the US President before the world's media, that must stand, and the onus is now on North Korea to prove that it is genuine.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, just for clarity sake, the President did say that he wanted to see an end to war games. It was very expensive. He was actually talking about the removal of troops from the Korean Peninsula. What is Australia's view on whether or not war games should continue?
JULIE BISHOP: This is an arrangement between the United States and South Korea, so it's an arrangement between two allies to carry out military exercises, and of course Australia supports the right of our allies to carry out military exercises - indeed we are involved in many of them - but the president spoke about it in answer to a question at a press conference. It clearly was not part of the Declaration, so we have to take the Declaration as being the areas of agreement and build on that.
JOURNALIST: Minister, just on another subject, on the cable – Rick Hou said last week in New Zealand that Australian officials specifically raised security concerns about Huawei building the cable. Can you elaborate on what those security concerns were?
JULIE BISHOP: No, I would not do that. I would not elaborate on security issues, that would not be appropriate. What we have offered the Solomon Islands, and they have accepted, is an alternative to the offer from Huawei and ours is cheaper, it's likely to be a faster result for them, and technically superior, and also more resilient. So we've offered an option for an undersea cable for Solomon Islands and PNG that I believe would be in the interests of both countries. That is PNG and Solomon Islands, because it's across both.
JOURNALIST: Did we say we wouldn't allow Huawei to plug into the Australian mainframe via Sydney?
JULIE BISHOP: There was no application made.
JOURNALIST: But did we make that clear that that would not be allowed to happen?
JULIE BISHOP: No, there was no application made and there are many steps that one would have to go through in order to consider such an application, but one was never made, so they never had to go through those steps.
JOURNALIST: Do you expect Beijing to be disappointed at the result?
JULIE BISHOP: Perhaps Huawei might be disappointed as a competitor but this was a commercial arrangement, and it was obviously not concluded. We put up an alternative, and that's what I believe Australia should continue to do. We are the largest aid donor in the Pacific. We are a long-standing partner of Solomon Islands, and I want to ensure that countries in the Pacific have alternatives, that they don't only have one option and no others, and so in this case we were in a position to be able to offer a more attractive deal for Solomon Islands and PNG, and they accepted it.
JOURNALIST: Back to the summit – in foreign affairs trust is a very important word and there is trust issues on both sides. How concerned are you about trusting what these leaders said yesterday in private, and trusting what Donald Trump told the world's media last night just days after what he had that volatile relationship with the G7?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, we can only determine the success of this meeting by the outcomes, and that will take some time. North Korea has committed to complete denuclearisation. We are yet to understand what North Korea means by denuclearisation. We understand what the United States and its allies mean - that is, the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the nuclear weapons program that is in defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions. So clearly North Korea must now abide by those numerous UN Security Council resolutions. And, by the way, the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council remain in place. They would not be removed until such time as North Korea had proven it has dismantled its nuclear weapons program.
JOURNALIST: But the North Korean regime has gone back on deals before.
JULIE BISHOP: Indeed.
JOURNALIST: And President Trump has gone back on the Iran nuclear deal. So is there any sense that we can trust either of these parties?
JULIE BISHOP: The outcomes will be the determinant of the success of this agreement that was reached yesterday. The Declaration, a very succinct Declaration, it is a starting point. It is a step in the right direction.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, you’d be very well aware of the deal though with Iran, which was a very comprehensive deal by comparison to this one that we’ve seen yesterday. So what was so wrong with the Iranian deal and so right with this one?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia has always supported the Iranian deal. We don’t believe it was perfect but it was the best option available and we’ve expressed our disappointment directly to the United States Administration about pulling out of the Iranian deal because the kind of issues that you are raising of course would be levelled at the United States. But the JCPOA, as the Iran deal is called was endorsed by the UN Security Council of which the United States is a member but the United States has made it clear that they are wanting to negotiate a much broader agreement with Iran, that involves Iran’s behaviour in the region and also ballistic missiles which were not covered in the Iran deal, the JCPOA. As I said, Australia didn’t think the deal was perfect but it was the best option available and still is the best option available to put a halt, however temporary, to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
JOURNALIST: But you are familiar with the text of both deals – how would you describe the level of detail in one versus the other?
JULIE BISHOP: They are very different arrangements. The JCPOA was negotiated over many, many months. John Kerry, the Secretary of State spent months travelling back and forth to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif to negotiate the very fine detail. There were other countries involved. It was the P5 plus 1. So there were a number of countries involved. It was very complex, long negotiating process. Yesterday was the first meeting between the US President and Kim Jong-un. They had a tete-a-tete. They had an initial meeting, as it is called. An initial meeting where they got to know each other and then there was a discussion that led to a short Declaration. So there is no comparison between the two processes. The hard work begins now in relation to North Korea. We have a framework, the Declaration, which talks about a lasting, stable peace, and complete denuclearisation. It also mentions the repatriation of remains of US soldiers and of course Australia is very interested in that issue. We have 43 Australians who are missing in action from the Korean War and I’ve been making diplomatic representations to North Korea for some time now in relation to the return of the remains of Australian soldiers. So perhaps there is another breakthrough for us, in a matter that is of great concern to us as well.
JOURNALIST: Does the relative success of yesterday’s summit open the door for multilateral talks with North Korea and is that something that you’ll look to progress?
JULIE BISHOP: It is very early days. We’ve had one meeting between the President and Kim Jong-un, a very short Declaration covering four points only. There are many other issues of contention with North Korea, not least its human rights record, the issue of ballistic missile testing, and there are many other issues involving North Korea, but this is a first step, and it is a step in the right direction. As I said it is the first positive development we’ve seen with North Korea in well over a decade.
JOURNALIST: You’re now very experienced in dealing with foreign affairs. How many minutes does it take you to ascertain whether someone who speaks a different language is entirely on the same wavelength as you?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, we all have different ways of assessing people that we meet. First impressions do count for a lot, but I haven’t met Kim Jong-un so I am not in a position to say how long it would take me to size him up, but actions do speak louder than words. He has committed to the Declaration. We now have to see the genuine, concrete, steps that North Korea takes to denuclearise, to be a law abiding nation and it is indirect defiance of numerous UN Security Council Resolutions – it must prove to the world that it can be trusted.
JOURNALIST: If things move towards denuclearisation, verification, what role do you see possibly for Australia?
JULIE BISHOP: I believe that Australia has a role to play. We have expertise in this area. We have a number of experts who are able to analyse and detect nuclear material. We have worked with the IAEA in Vienna and elsewhere, and the IAEA will be looking for experts from around the world. I believe that the United States would want to send inspectors and Australia certainly has experts, and we would offer that expertise but until we know the parameters of the verification, the framework that North Korea would accept, then I can’t go into any more specifics.
JOURNALIST: On Australia’s war dead, do you have any evidence or information at all that North Koreans would have gathered them in a particular place or categorised them or kept them in such a way? It was such a long period of time to be able to find them.
JULIE BISHOP: We have made numerous representations. In fact, the last representation I made was in 2017. They have not been acknowledged by North Korea but I know our War Memorial is working very hard on this issue. The fact that it was raised by President Trump and it has been agreed by North Korea gives us some hope that Australia will also be able to make representations to North Korea for the return of our war dead.
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