Sixth Seoul Defense Dialogue doorstop

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Senator the Hon Marise Payne

Minister for Defence

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  • Henry Budd (Minister Payne’s office) 0429 531 143
  • Defence Media (02) 6127 1999

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7 September 2017

MARISE PAYNE: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It's a great pleasure to be here in Seoul this morning for the sixth Seoul Defense Dialogue, which - as I said in my remarks - is an extremely important opportunity for regional countries and, in fact, countries far more broadly on the international stage, to get together to discuss some of the key issues that confront us on a daily basis.

I was particularly pleased to have enjoyed a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Lee this morning, and to have the opportunity to engage on some of those key issues directly with him, and I'll be meeting further with Defense Minister Song later this afternoon.

In terms of Australia's position, which we have consistently made clear, and particularly in relation to the threat currently presented to the region and to the international community by the provocative actions of the DPRK, we are strongly encouraging our counterparts - internationally and, of course, regionally - to take up the regime of sanctions that the UN Security Council has resolved upon, to apply those in their own contexts, and to, where appropriate, do as Australia has done and pursue an autonomous sanctions approach as well.

These are very important tools for delivering key messages to the regime in North Korea that their actions are provocative, are destabilising, are illegal, and are not contributing in any way, shape or form to international security or stability. So we encourage our counterparts to pursue that sanctions regime.

More broadly, the issues that the SDD is discussing today are the issues of the present, and indeed, the future for our region; the challenges of terrorism, the challenges of cyber-security, the challenges of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance when, inevitably, we find in this region, disaster does occur. The purpose of the dialogue and the broad number of countries that are attending - indeed, numbering over 30 - brings together a discussion that helps us with cooperation, collaboration, interoperability and familiarity, and knowing the people with whom you are working and the people with whom you are dealing. So I'm very pleased to have had the opportunity to deliver the keynote speech today, very pleased with the warm reception and warm meeting with Prime Minister Lee, and I look forward to your questions.

QUESTION: Minister, there's some very strong dialogue today in the conference at the opening with yourself, your own speech, but also from Prime Minister Lee, saying not a time for dialogue with North Korea. What do you make of that particular stand?

MARISE PAYNE: I think if you're in Seoul, if you're in South Korea then you are finding, even more than the international community, the actions of the regime extremely confronting, and I absolutely understand the Prime Minister's observations today. But what we are saying from Australia's perspective is that the most important actions we can take as countries in the region and more broadly is to ensure that we support the sanctions regime that the UN Security Council has adopted, and in fact, Australia has indicated we are prepared to call for stronger sanctions through the UN Security Council process. We know that a number of those sanctions are only coming into operation now. They are sanctions which will have a significant impact on North Korea and its economy.

We also know that, more broadly, there is, in China, a nation which has the most significant leverage of any country in the international community in its engagement with North Korea. The Prime Minister, in his conversations with President Trump yesterday morning, has engaged on that issue, and particularly in how we might speak with President Ji and with the Government in China about what more can be done to exercise influence from the PRC.

QUESTION: Minister, do you believe it's too late for dialogue?

MARISE PAYNE:I think it's never too late for dialogue. I actually believe that both the diplomatic and the sanctions approach are important to travel as parallel paths, and I think that a number of countries in the region and further afield have echoed that.

QUESTION: But some people think that sanctions could corner North Korea too much and it may bring about a result that not many desire. What do you say to that?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, I think that we have to allow the sanctions to run their course. As I said, some are starting in relatively recent days and weeks. We have to ensure that they run their course, but we all have to be consistent in our messaging to the regime. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, made clear in their op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, for example, that the United States is not seeking regime change, that the United States is not seeking the annihilation of the regime; they are seeking, however, a responsible approach to the exercise of power and to the development of weapons - in this context, both nuclear and ballistic - and we support that approach indeed. The sanctions regime - which the United Nations Security Council and like-minded countries are pursuing - the sanctions regime is part of that messaging, and it's an integral part of that messaging, and it's an integral part of ensuring that we are very clear about the unacceptability of the behaviour from the regime.

QUESTION: US said that all options are on the table, including military options. Is Australia on the same side?

MARISE PAYNE: The United States have said that. Australia is very, very clearly focused on ensuring that our autonomous sanctions and the UN Security Council sanction regime are pursued to their fullest opportunity at this point in time. However, we understand that this is a very clear threat that the North Korean regime is posing to nations here in this region, more broadly. I understand that- at this point, I think strategic patience is the phrase that was previously used in the United States - has worn a little thin. However, we encourage - with our colleagues in the United States and more broadly - the application of sanctions to make sure that we are working together to deliver this consistent message.

QUESTION: Minister, overnight as you arrived here in Seoul, south of Seoul the US military installed another bank of THAD interceptor launchers. Is it time - parochial question - but is it time for Australia to consider that sort of defence mechanism, given these ICBMs can now reach our northern coastline?

MARISE PAYNE: I do understand the actions of South Korea in installation of a defence mechanism like THAAD. It, specifically, is not appropriate in the Australian context, given that is has a much narrower geographic capacity, if you like, than the broad Australian continent necessarily …

QUESTION: Just to protect Darwin.

MARISE PAYNE:  … allows for, but we are constantly reviewing our options in that regard. We are constantly speaking with our counterparts in the United States, and of course, we support the principle of extended deterrence, and we are part of that undertaking with the US.

QUESTION: Should Australians be concerned at all? We have had direct threats from the leader himself.

MARISE PAYNE: We assess that we are a relatively low target, relatively low in terms of any targeting statements that may be made by the regime, but at the same time, we do take this extremely seriously. As I just said to Chris, we are constantly reviewing our position, we are constantly looking at options that are available to us in that regard, but we go back to the impact that we can pursue through the sanction regime, and it is very important that we stay clearly focused on delivering that message and making sure that we are unequivocal in our determination.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on Australia's autonomous sanctions? Any more to come, or are you talking about the ones that are already in place?

MARISE PAYNE: I'm talking about the ones that are already in place, which place sanctions on the movement of individuals and on a number of organisations, but we are discussing through the Foreign Minister particularly, and with our counterparts in the UN and members of the UN Security Council what other sanctions might be appropriate.

SPEAKER: Last question.

QUESTION: Do you have a specific plan to increase security cooperation with South Korea against North Korea?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, I think that's a very good question, and it's one of the reasons that I'm here today. We are close partners with South Korea in a number of ways. We exercise together, we do educational and training exchanges, but we know that there is a lot more that can be done to grow that relationship. I will be back in Seoul in October for a Defence and Foreign Affairs 2+2 Ministerial Meeting, and I look forward to developing the relationship with my counterpart here in South Korea. These are very difficult times. These are very challenging times, and the basis of my remarks this morning was about the development of relationships, was about the capacity to cooperate and to work together effectively, collaboratively, to encourage interoperability. We have a number of military aspects of our activities in common, not the least of which is the upcoming purchase of F-35s, and I think you will see greater defence cooperation in the future.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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