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Transcript of interview: ABC radio: 18 January 2011: AUKMIN meeting; Afghanistan; North Korea



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The Hon Julie Bishop, MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Deputy Leader of the Opposition Member for Curtin

ABC Radio

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Subjects: AUKMIN meeting; Afghanistan; North Korea

E&OE…

JOURNALIST (The AUKMIN meeting has wound up, but it is 17 years since a British Foreign Minister visited Australia, has the relationship been taken for granted?)

JULIE BISHOP I support the decision to hold regular meetings and it is vital that we continue to maintain the close relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom to ensure that we never take for granted our closest allies.

The AUKMIN meetings were an initiative of the Howard and Blair Governments and I support the decision to hold them regularly in Australia and Britain.

JOURNALIST (Do we need to hold regular meetings so we don’t take the relationship for granted?)

JULIE BISHOP Well I think holding a regular meeting ensures that we do maintain the close relationship, that we continue to build on the enduring relationship that does exist. We share vast areas of common interest - strong investment, trade and defence links, as well as our common heritage and our common values of freedom and democracy.

JOURNALIST (As for Afghanistan, Britain has a schedule for withdrawal, should Australia?)

JULIE BISHOP We would be guided by expert military advice and other advice from Afghanistan as to when it is appropriate to withdraw our troops. We have a role to play, we are supporting the Afghani National Army and police in training and other logistical support.

Our Prime Minister spoke of a decade of commitment, and I note the British support for our troop commitment in Afghanistan, but we would be guided by the best possible advice as to when our commitment in Afghanistan can be deemed to be completed.

JOURNALIST (It is reported that the Taliban may be fighting back this year to regain lost ground. Is it a dangerous mission?)

JULIE BISHOP Of course. It is very tough for our troops in Afghanistan, it is an inhospitable environment, they are fighting on a daily basis, the Taliban has sought to regroup and gains were made but it has been a very tough fight all along and Australia has suffered as a result. But we have a commitment to support the Afghani people in gaining freedom, hopefully gaining a democracy that takes hold in the country and moving towards greater prosperity. The shared commitment that we have with the United States, Great Britain and other allies is to ensure that Afghanistan is able to be in charge of its own country, its own security, its own prosperity.

JOURNALIST (Today North Korea was raised at AUKMIN with calls for China to influence North Korea to return to the negotiating table.)

JULIE BISHOP We have supported the six-party talks and we’ve certainly supported calls from the United States and others for North Korea to return to the six-party talks.

China has a relationship with North Korea that most other countries do not and so China is in a position to use that relationship for a better outcome, and I believe China is seeking to do that but we must all be vigilant and maintain the pressure on countries who can make some difference in the relationship with North Korea.

The ultimate objective is to bring North Korea back to the six-party talks and to find an outcome that supports all of the nations involved.

JOURNALIST (Foreign Minister Hague said while China has influence, we cannot expect China to should the burden alone. Is that fair?)

JULIE BISHOP I think that is a very fair observation. China is aware that the world is looking to China to use whatever influence it has with North Korea, but North Korea is an unusual country with a rather unusual leadership and it is not predictable in the way it behaves and so normal diplomatic efforts may not work. And that is why it is important for all countries with any influence to encourage North Korea to come back to the six-party talks.