Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Meet The Press -

View in ParlView

INTERVIEWS WITH FOREIGN MINISTER ALEXANDER DOWNER AND DIRECTOR OF THE OPERATIONS CAPABILITY PROGRAM
AT THE AUSTRALIAN STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE ANDREW DAVIES.

15th October, 2006

DISCUSSIONS ABOUT IRAQ, NORTH KOREA, SOLOMON ISLANDS, PNG, POSSIBILITY OF TERRORISTS USING NUCLEAR
WEAPONS.

MEET THE PRESS PRESENTER PAUL BONGIORNO: Hello and welcome to Meet The Press. North Korea's Kim
Jong-il thumbs his nose at the rest of the world. The regime proclaimed its nuclear test a
self-defensive technological triumph - the world unimpressed.

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN (Last Thursday): I think it's important for the whole world, this
is - you're talking weapons of mass destruction that can have impact around the world.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is our guest. And later, a strategic analyst and
physicist runs his eye over North Korea's claims. But first - in breaking news this Sunday October
15.

UN SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT (Last night): Will those in favour of the draft resolution contained
in document S/2006/805 please raise their hands?

PAUL BONGIORNO: The United Nations Security Council unanimously imposes financial and arms
sanctions on North Korea. The resolution stopped short of threatening military force. The 'Sunday
Age' leads with - "Join the army for a year." School leavers will be offered defence training in
their gap year, the new recruitment drive seen as a 'try before you buy' approach. The 'Sunday
Telegraph' has - "Pay-later poor." Debt-stricken families with new homes, cars and plasma TVs are
relying on charity hand-outs for food and household bills. The Adelaide 'Sunday Mail' reports -
"Cosgrove wrong about Iraq." Former defence forces chief General Peter Cosgrove has apologised to
Federal Police boss Mick Keelty and now admits the Iraq war has boosted global terrorism. The
Brisbane 'Sunday Mail' has - "Diggers fleeced by lovers." Australian troops are returning from war
zones to discover they've been fleeced by gold-digging wives and girlfriends. Australia's response
to the North Korean test was swift and tough. And to talk about latest developments the Foreign
Minister joins us. Welcome back to the program, Alexander Downer.

FOREIGN MINISTER ALEXANDER DOWNER: Thank you, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The UN sanctions, are they tough enough, in your view, to do the job?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I think they're surprisingly tough. Obviously it wasn't possible for the
Americans, on their part, and the British and French to get everything they wanted, but
nevertheless it's a very robust Security Council resolution. We warmly welcome this resolution. It
will put enormous pressure on the North Koreans. We'll obviously fully implement our obligations
under the resolution and do what we can to help make sure, more broadly, the resolution is
implemented.

PAUL BONGIORNO: By not referring to military force in a similar way to the resolutions in the
lead-up to the Iraq war, does this send an equivocal message to a regime like North Korea?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Look, I don't think it does. You've got to realise that from China's point of
view - and it's very important that there's some reflection about this - to go from where China has
been as the main supporter of North Korea to where China is today, in agreeing to the passage of
this resolution, and a Chapter 7 resolution, that is an enormous distance for China to have
travelled. China has been humiliated by the North Koreans, and it's a reflection of the sense of
desperation and anger in China that they've been prepared to support a strong resolution like this.
So, bearing all those kinds of things in mind, it's a pretty good outcome.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The record of North Korea is basically to thumb its nose at the rest of the world.
What credibility can UN sanctions have when the experience of Iraq shows that even a country like
Australia, for all its good will, can't enforce them?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, yeah, 66 countries in relation to Iraq had companies - not the Governments
though - but they had companies that breeched the sanctions, or at least allegedly did.

PAUL BONGIORNO: That's the point.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Look, I think though, that... Yes. I think hopefully lessons will have been
learnt all around by what happened in relation to companies circumventing the sanctions on Iraq,
which were, of course, in place for a very long time. In this particular case they are more
specific sanctions. They are sanctions that focus on military goods, the import and export of
military materials of one kind or another into and out of North Korea. There obviously will be a
determination not only to make sure those sanctions stick, but there is some capacity to intercept
vessels and inspect those vessels. Now, it depends very much on the circumstances - where those
vessels are, what flag those vessels have and so on. A number of countries, in addition to all of
this, will be banning North Korean ships all together from their ports. That's something - we
haven't made a final decision about that - but that's something that we may very well do ourselves,
bearing in mind the unhappy experience we had of the 'Pong Su' some years ago bringing drugs into
Australia.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, talking about interdicting ships, does that mean some sort of naval
blockade? The Prime Minister, during last week, suggested that Australia may be willing to put a
naval ship in in any blockade.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, it doesn't allow for a blockade, simply put. But what it does allow for is
the interdiction and inspection of North Korean ships, but you can do that in your own territorial
waters or in waters contiguous to your territorial waters or with the approval of another country
to interdict within their waters or contiguous waters. So all of this is going to require a great
deal more work and discussion between friends and allies in the region and no doubt beyond as well.
So it's too early to say whether this could involve Australian naval ships. We simply don't know at
this stage. We need to talk to a number of other countries in the region about it. But it's an
important step forward because, at least as far as North Korean flag vessels are concerned, and
with the approval of the country in which other vessels might be flagged, there is some capacity to
inspect those vessels. Besides sanctions, Kofi Annan last week lent weight to the view that
Washington should be prepared to talk bilaterally with Pyongyang one-on-one, as it were. This is
how President Bush reacted.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH (Last Thursday): Now all of a sudden people are saying, "You know, the Bush
administration ought to be going alone with North Korea", but it didn't work in the past, is my
point. The strategy did not work. I learnt a lesson from that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, do you think that we should be trying everything, should Australia be
encouraging America to go one-on-one with North Korea?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, everybody says America should fix all the problems, and when it tries to
fix them alone they say America shouldn't be trying to fix the problems alone. I think we need a
bit of a reality check here. I actually happen to think the country that has the greatest leverage
over North Korea isn't the United States, it's China, and I think the best way to handle this is to
have a group of countries, particularly involving China and the United States, but also...

PAUL BONGIORNO: But North Korea says doing all of this because it's afraid of America, it's afraid
of an American invasion.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, that's what they say, but, you see, they've been offered a security
guarantee by all of the other five parties to the six-party talks, and the Chinese have made it
perfectly clear to the North Koreans the Americans aren't contemplating an invasion of North Korea.
Actually, I myself and others have said to the North Koreans the greatest guarantee for North
Korea's security is to comply with international law and Security Council resolutions and to
abandon their nuclear program. People would rapidly lose interest in North Korea if that were the
case.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Time for a break. When we return with the panel - trouble in the neighbourhood.
Where to now for relations in the South Pacific?

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet The Press with Foreign Minister Downer. Welcome to the panel Steve
Lewis, the 'Australian'. Good morning, Steve.

STEVE LEWIS, THE 'AUSTRALIAN': Good morning, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: And Peter Hartcher, the 'Sydney Morning Herald'. Good morning, Peter.

PETER HARTCHER, THE 'SYDNEY MORNING HERALD': G'day, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Last week saw the Attorney-General designate of the Solomons Julian Moti flee Papua
New Guinea in a brazen attempt to avoid child sex charges in Australia. The Charge d'Affaires of
the Solomons in Canberra a week earlier accused Australia of bullying his tiny nation.

SOLOMON ISLANDS CHARGE D'AFFAIRES JOHN WASI (October 3): I'd like to see more it, you know, dealt
with more - in a more diplomatic way so that we all do not add fuel to the already existing
standard that we have had with Australia.

PETER HARTCHER: Mr Downer, just before we go to the Solomons, can I just ask you to clarify a point
on North Korea, please? I think you said that it was not yet clear whether Australian vessels would
be - naval vessels - would be involved in inspecting North Korean cargoes. Isn't it the case,
though, that under the PSI, Proliferation Security Initiative, Australia has already committed to a
process very much like that?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Yes, we have, but we have to work out what all the legal issues are in the
context of the Security Council resolution. I think there will be some capacity to interdict North
Korean vessels under the Security Council resolution. There's no - actually there's no question of
that. Now, whether we will provide ourselves naval vessels to assist, we'll just have to wait and
see. That'll all have to be worked out in detail, but in the meantime we'll also be considering a
full ban, as the Japanese have done, on North Korean vessels visiting Australians ports at all.

PETER HARTCHER: The North Koreans have said any interdiction would be an act of war. Do you take
that seriously or is that a bluff?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, they say bellicose things almost every day. I think the main thing is that
we enforce the UN sanctions as best we possibly can, make sure this time around that they're not
circumvented. So, we'll have to do that in a pretty robust way. I think the main way they can avoid
confrontation with the international community is to abandon their nuclear program and get back to
the six-party talks process.

PETER HARTCHER: Coming to the Solomons, a couple of weeks ago the Solomon Islands were accusing
Australia of bullying them. Now we have the Prime Minister Sogavare threatening to kick out
Australian peacekeeping forces and cut off aid from Australia. How seriously do you take this
threat?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, look, we make the point - I've made the point often in a broad sense - that
for years and years Australian Governments just shovelled aid into the Solomon Islands and didn't
do anything about the problem of political governance there and the rule of law, and we've taken
the view that Australia has to take a stronger approach to these problems and that we can't allow
the rule of law to be flouted or abandoned. Now, all we call on in relation to the Solomon Islands
is that the Solomon Islands Government upholds the laws of its country, and we've said the same in
relation to Papua New Guinea. There are laws. We expect those laws to be adhered to and to be
enforced. Now, RAMSI helps to do that. I think it's important in that context to look at some of
the statements that are being made by the Solomon Islands Prime Minister and for people who are
interested in this issue to read what the Prime Minister has said very carefully. And if you read
what he says, I think the best response from us is that his words should stand on their own and be
subject to analysis. There isn't much more I can add than that.

STEVE LEWIS: But, Minister, he is saying that - he is raising the prospect that RAMSI would be
withdrawn from the Solomon Islands. How do you actually respond to that? And are you saying that
Australia would withdraw aid if it was not able to maintain that peacekeeping force in the Solomon
Islands?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, look, RAMSI has been central to rehabilitating the Solomon Islands. It was
in 2003 when RAMSI came in pretty much a failed state, and as far as the ordinary people of the
Solomon Islands are concerned, they're seeing now their health services return, school buildings
are being built, classrooms are being staffed, children are going to school, and in the main, other
than the events we saw in April of this year, there has been a much better law and order
environment within the Solomon Islands. And we want to see that continue. During the course of next
week there'll be a meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum because RAMSI is a Pacific - obviously it's
dominated by Australia and financially supported fundamentally by Australia - but it is a Pacific
Islands Forum initiative, and there'll be an opportunity for all of the leaders of Pacific Islands
Forum countries in Fiji to talk about it. But I think the general view around the region is that
it's been working well. I mean, Mr Sogavare has his own issues, of course, but to make any
fundamental changes to RAMSI would require an act of the Solomon Islands parliament and the
agreement of the Pacific Islands Forum countries. So, I don't think we should over-react to
statements made in the Parliament at the end of last week.

STEVE LEWIS: Moving on to one of our other Pacific neighbours, PNG, their armed forces have
obviously been involved in helping Mr Moti move from PNG to the Solomon Islands. What's your
response to that?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, our response to that is is that the Papua New Guinea Government needs fully
and openly to investigate what happened here. On the face of it, for the Papua New Guinea
Government to have spirited a fugitive out of the country in breach of Papua New Guinea law, again,
is a reminder that there are real problems with governance in some corners of the Pacific. It's a
terrible thing for a Government to do in breach of its own laws, obviously in disregard to the
opinions of Australia and to the laws of Australia. But, I mean, this is in breach of Papua New
Guinea's own laws. It's important to the credibility of Papua New Guinea that they establish who
gave those orders and how far up the chain those orders came from and, regardless of who gave the
orders, the people who gave the orders should be dealt with, because it's a flagrant breach of
Papua New Guinea law.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Is Australia willing to send any signal to Papua New Guinea that it's unhappy with
these developments?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Yes. I think until they've sorted these problems out, we should suspend our
ministerial contacts with them. Once they've sorted out these issues and we're satisfied that the
quality of governance is back on on the right path, that once that happens we should fully resume
our ministerial dealings with Papua New Guinea. But in the meantime...

PAUL BONGIORNO: Have you cancelled any meetings?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: In the meantime I don't think it's appropriate for the Prime Minister of Papua
New Guinea to come to Australia, and I don't think the Defence Minister should come later this
month, as was originally planned, and there's a question mark now as to whether we'll go ahead with
the ministerial forum with Papua New Guinea at the end of the year. We'll wait and see how this
investigation goes and what the outcome of this investigation is, but this - Australia has got to
learn not just to shovel aid into neighbouring countries, but to make sure that there are high
standards of governance, because if we shovel aid into these countries and the standards of
governance are not good and the law and order, the laws of these lands are not upheld, then our aid
is going to be wasted.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, just going to Iraq, Britain's Army chief has reached the conclusion it
would be better for UK troops to pull out of Iraq. He says that staying there is now
counterproductive, it's encouraging terrorists and making things worse on the ground. He said, "I
don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are caused by our presence in
Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

STEVE LEWIS: Minister...

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I think...

PAUL BONGIORNO: Yes.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Sorry.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Go ahead.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I was just going to say I think - which I did last night, people should read
through everything that he said. See, the trouble with this whole Iraq is that there is a very
political attempt, particularly but not exclusively, but particularly a very political attempt to
try to demonstrate two things. One, that Saddam Hussein - we would have been better off with Saddam
Hussein remaining in power. I still don't think that's true myself. And when you make a judgment
about whether it would have been better to leave him in power, you then have to make some pretty
sophisticated judgments as to what his behaviour would have been in the environment of the war
against terrorism, and you'd have to assume he would have been a benign player, which I would
certainly not have assumed.

STEVE LEWIS: Mr Downer...

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Secondly, I just wanted to make this point, in terms of pulling out of Iraq, I
don't think the British general was saying that British troops should immediately withdraw. But if
the proposition is that foreign troops eventually should withdraw from Iraq, everyone agrees with
that. Of course they should. Nobody wants to say in Iraq for one minute longer than is necessary,
and the definition of 'necessary' is whether the Iraqi regime can survive without the support of
some foreign troops.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us today, Alexander Downer. After the break,
physicist and strategic analyst, Andrew Davies. This week it's hard to go beyond the movie 'Team
America' for a satirical take on North Korea's defiance.

HANS BLICK PUPPET: Mr Il, I was supposed to be allowed to inspect your palace today and your guards
won't let me in to certain areas.

KIM JONG-IL PUPPET: Hans, Hans, Hans, we've been through this a dozen times. I don't have any
weapons of mass destruction, OK, Hans.

HANS BLICK: Then let me look around so I can ease the UN's collective mind.

KIM JONG-IL: Hans, you're breaking my balls here. Hans, you're breaking my balls!

HANS BLICK: I'm sorry, but the UN must be firm with you. Let me see your whole palace or else.

KIM JONG-IL: Or else what?

HANS BLICK: Or else we will be very, very angry with you and we will write you a letter telling you
how angry we are.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet The Press. One of the biggest fears of a nuclear-armed North Korea
is the trade in technology and even weaponry with rogue states or terrorists. Imagine this scenario
- a small plane with a nuclear bomb on board crashes into a Manhattan high-rise. Possible or
far-fetched? Someone equipped to give an assessment is the Director of the Operations Capability
Program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Andrew Davies. Welcome, Dr Davies. Is that
far-fetched? Is it possible?

ANDREW DAVIES, AUSTRALIAN STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Look, I think it's pretty far-fetched at the
moment, Paul. North Korea's nuclear test the other day appears to have been a bit of a dud in terms
of the the yield, and we don't know what sort of weapon it was. But the chances of them being able
to produce one that could be delivered by an airforce plane, let alone a light plane, is pretty
far-fetched. I think the most realistic delivery mechanism they've got one is to float one into a
harbour with either a ship or a submarine.

PAUL BONGIORNO: So what about the idea of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists? They
can't be put into suitcases?

ANDREW DAVIES: The North Korean weapons, I would imagine, especially given the results of the test,
I'd suggest that we're talking pretty crude devices at the moment, and generally to miniaturise
things to that extent you have to do a significant amount of testing, and you're a couple of
generations down the design path before you get to that sort of stage.

STEVE LEWIS: Dr Davies, if we're talking fairly crude devices, has the world overreacted to North
Korea's actions? I mean, we've seen the UN Security Council overnight pass a very tough resolution
against North Korea.

ANDREW DAVIES: Look, I think it's a case of yes and no. I think what the United Nations passed last
night is a very good thing - it's a very positive step. In terms of, did anything really change
last Monday, I think it's more the psychology than the reality of it because for the last couple of
years we've had to assume that North Korea had nuclear weapons anyway. So in terms of the sort of
strategic calculus, not much has changed, but the actual test has made the world sit up and pay
attention.

PETER HARTCHER: Dr Davies, your point that the most realistic delivery mechanism would be floating
a nuclear bomb into a port or harbour, that's a pretty strong case, isn't it, in favour of the idea
of banning ship visits by any North Korean vessels, as the Minister was just canvassing a minute
ago?

ANDREW DAVIES: Well, I don't think I'd want to overstate the chance of North Korea actually trying
to do that with a nuclear weapon, but I think my point was that's the only way they can do it. But
certainly North Korean ships have been involved in all sorts of Government sponsored illegal
activity in the past, so you can't rule that one out. And I think a port ban, while not absolutely
necessary from a security point of view, certainly wouldn't hurt.

PETER HARTCHER: Can we take you to Iraq? We've heard the head of the UK armed forces saying that
the continuing presence of allied troops in Iraq could be - was - exacerbating the situation. We
also have today a report from General Peter Cosgrove, and if I can read you the quote from the
Melbourne 'Herald Sun' today. "If people say there has been an energising of the jihadist movement
through the protracted war in Iraq, well, that's pretty obvious." Do you think it's obvious?

ANDREW DAVIES: Look, it's not clear - certainly it's obvious that there's been a great deal of
activity within Iraq. Whether that actually feeds into the international jihadist movement, that's
not 100% clear to me, not clear that - al-Qa'ida are seeing Iraq as another opportunity, but it's
not clear that resources from Iraq will feed out into the wider al-Qa'ida.

STEVE LEWIS: What about Australia's role in Iraq? We've now got the US Government, which is having
a look at its role. James Baker, who has been asked to have a look at that. Should Australia also
be having a serious re-examination of its strategy vis-a-vis Iraq?

ANDREW DAVIES: Look, I think the coalition should be constantly examining its strategy in Iraq as,
in fact, you should with any live operation. Iraq is a very difficult situation, but it's not at
all clear to me that things would improve if the western forces pulled out.

STEVE LEWIS: Are you confident that this Government that, that the Howard Government, strategy on
Iraq - and we had the Prime Minister just the other day admit that the post-war phase has not gone
as well as he would have liked - are you confident that this Government's strategy is the correct
one?

ANDREW DAVIES: Well, I'm not confident that the Iraq strategy in the first place was the correct
one, but that's a sunk cost. If you look at the situation now there seems to be two alternatives.
One is to stay and do it tough, because the situation in Iraq is not good. The other alternative is
to leave and - in which you have very little control over what actually happens in Iraq. You'd have
to say the prognosis wouldn't be good.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just briefly - we're out of time. What about, going back to North Korea, their
threat to test a hydrogen bomb? It would seem that this is just bluff?

ANDREW DAVIES: Look, I think that's almost certainly just a bluff. To detonate a hydrogen bomb you
need to have a very reliable, fully functioning fission bomb to set it off in the first place, and
I think last Monday suggested that North Korea actually don't have that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for joining us today, Andrew Davies. And thanks to our panel,
Steve Lewis and Peter Hartcher. Until next week, goodbye.