LEIGH SALES: Foreign Minister, what’s the Australian Government’s reaction to what’s been signed today?
JULIE BISHOP: We most certainly welcome the signing of a declaration between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. This is an historic day, not only because it is the first time that a sitting US President has met with a North Korean Leader, but also building on the Summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, this is the first positive development we’ve seen involving North Korea in over a decade.
We are cautiously optimistic, but of course, the test will be verification of the denuclearisation. We welcome the fact that North Korea has committed to complete denuclearisation and also a lasting and stable peace on the Korean Peninsula.
LEIGH SALES: How can such commitments, and indeed, the agreement overall have any credibility when the two leaders signing it are erratic and unreliable?
JULIE BISHOP: We have to see the outcome of this declaration. As President Trump has said, complete denuclearisation means the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and that will thereby remove a real risk to our region and the world. But we will have to see the concrete, genuine steps that North Korea takes.
It is a breakthrough. There has been a document signed by a US President and a North Korean leader committing to denuclearisation and a lasting and stable peace on the Korean Peninsula.
LEIGH SALES: What sort of verification do you think would be required to sort of – cross a bar for assurance?
JULIE BISHOP: It would certainly be an historic day when the last nuclear weapon that North Korea currently holds is dismantled. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, has experience in this kind of work. Most certainly the United States will want to be personally satisfied that denuclearisation has taken place and will no doubt be part of that verification process. We, in Australia, the Australian Government is currently assessing, what we could offer in terms of expertise to assist in that verification process. I imagine it will be the IAEA together with global experts to complete the verification process that North Korea has in fact denuclearised.
LEIGH SALES: What does it say that Donald Trump’s Administration sees a ‘special place in hell’ for the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, traditionally one of America’s closest allies, and yet the US President claims a very special bond with Kim Jong-un, one of the world’s most notorious dictators and recalcitrant?
JULIE BISHOP: There is a great deal of rhetoric at present. I am certainly not going to buy into the commentary between the US and Canada apart from urging both sides to amicably resolve their trade disputes. It is in nobody’s interests for the United States and Canada to have tensions over any issue, let alone over trade.
We most certainly urging both sides to negotiate their trade differences and if they are not able to resolve them then of course to resort to the World Trade Organisation where trade disputes are resolved. The separate issue of course is this breakthrough, yet to be verified, but nevertheless a breakthrough, with North Korea. I am cautiously optimistic about achieving the goals that have been set out in that Declaration.
LEIGH SALES: Regarding that attack by President Trump on Canada earlier this week, how concerned is Australia to see a close ally treated like that? Does it give Australia pause in imagining that Australia would be immune from similar sort of treatment?
JULIE BISHOP: We are certainly urging the United States and Canada to resolve their differences. It is in nobody’s interests for there to be any tensions between the United States and Canada. They are two longstanding, close allies. They are very dear and close allies of Australia, so we want to ensure that any tensions or any difficulties are resolved as soon as possible.
LEIGH SALES: On the split in the G7 between the US and the other six nations, who does Australia side with, Trump or the European nations and Canada?
JULIE BISHOP: It is not a question of siding. Australia is committed to open and liberalised trade and investment. We have had differences of opinion with the United States over this, the current Administration. We were able to extract an exemption from the United States over the imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs on products from Australia. We are committed to open trade, liberalised trade and investment. We urge the United States to continue to be a leader in ensuring that the benefits of free and open trade can continue to be felt by citizens around the world.
LEIGH SALES: Julie Bishop, thanks for making time to speak to us.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
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