15 Jun

'Julie Bishop warns: Don’t lift foot off North Korea’s throat' Primrose Riordan, The Australian

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has suggested it may be too early to cease military exercises between the US and South Korea, saying the west should not ‘lift its foot off North Korea’s throat’ until the nation proves it is serious about denuclearisation.

The Australian government has welcomed the Singapore summit and Malcolm Turnbull has said Donald Trump deserved credit for giving peace on the Korean peninsula a “red-hot go”, but conceded the deal may not work.

At a press conference after the summit with North Korea this week, Mr Trump pledged to stop “provocative” military exercises between the US and South Korea and openly said he wanted to eventually draw down the number of US troops in South Korea.

The large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises between the US and South Korea are scheduled for August. After Mr Trump’s announcement, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defence said they needed to wait to figure out the exact meaning and intent of Mr Trump’s comments.

Ms Bishop called on the US to clarify exactly what Mr Trump meant by the statement.

“I think the United States needs to clarify what was actually meant,” she told reporters on Thursday.

As she continued to answer a question on whether ceasing the exercises was a good idea, the foreign minister said the US should not remove factors which brought Pyongyang to the negotiation table.

“I don’t know whether the president made it conditional on North Korea reaching certain milestones but I would most certainly want to see verifiable concrete steps taken by North Korea that showed it was genuine in its commitment to denuclearisation otherwise the United States would be removing one of the very reasons that brought Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table in the first place,” she said.

“The major reason was the impact of the economic sanctions that have been imposed since last September by virtue of a unanimous resolution of the UN Security Council including Russia and China to their credit, and also the threat of military action, without doubt that’s what brought Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table.

“So I would not be taking my foot off the throat of North Korea until I saw very concrete steps that this time they were genuine.”

In a further split with Donald Trump, Ms Bishop said Russia should not be brought back into the G7 grouping of nations, after Mr Trump said Moscow should be readmitted to the industrialised nations meetings.

“I don’t believe in rewarding bad behaviour,” she said.

“Russia has breached the integrity of Ukraine’s borders, Russia falsely claimed Crimea as its own, Russia has to answer for the downing of MH17, Russia has been involved in the use of chemical nerve agents.

“I don’t believe that kind of behaviour from a nation that is a permanent members of the United Nations Security Council charged with the unique responsibility to ensure international peace and security, I don’t think it should be rewarded by being admitted back into the club.”

Ms Bishop was speaking at an Australian British Chamber of Commerce event in Sydney where she otherwise joked about the Mr Trump and Mr Kim’s hairstyles.

“With the US fighting Canada and making friends with North Korea, who can make sense of what’s going on?”

“And what about that summit in Singapore? It was an extraordinary event by any measure. And I was glued to the TV for 24, 36 hours, and after a while I became quite mesmerised by the contrasting hairstyles of the two leaders.”

She said her “favourite” foreign minister Boris Johnson might have been responsible for bringing the two men together due to his own distinctive hair.

“Do you think the third most recognisable political hair in the world had something to do with this?...Did I detect the deft hand of Boris Johnson in bringing together this budding bromance?”

Ms Bishop said she “absolutely” believed Australia needed a bigger aid budget.

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