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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 16063

Press Conference, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/08/2008

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 16063

PM: Many, many challenges and opportunities in our bilateral relationship and our common activities in the region and the world.

On the bilateral front the Australia Korea relationship is in first class working order. The President indicated to me the country's deep appreciation and sacrifice of Australian soldiers here in the Korean War and spoke movingly about those contributions.

As I reflected upon my visit yesterday to Busan and the United Nations cemetery there I referred particularly to the sacrifice of one young Australian soldier who lost his life at the age of 17 having lied about his age. The President hadn't heard that story before. We we're advised yesterday that this young Australian solider was in fact the youngest member of the United Nations forces to have been killed in action in the Korean War and they have named a war memorial after him at the cemetery in Busan.

Now we'll continue into the future the further developments of security cooperation between our two countries, the Republic of Korea and Australia have already worked and continue to work with one another in many parts of the world through peace keeping operations and we'll be looking at further opportunities to expand and develop our security relationship as well.

And the Foreign Ministers will be discussing that further over the next two to three months ahead.

On the economic relationship the President and I confirmed our commitment to the principle and objective of a free trade agreement between our two countries.

As a consequence of that preparatory discussions and negotiations will be held, the first round, as I'm advised Ambassador, in Canberra. Am I right Ambassador? The first round of negotiations will be held in Canberra, I don't wish to mislead the Australian media, in September-October. These are preparatory discussions, preparatory negotiations and the President and I confirmed our in principle support for an Australia Korea free trade agreement.

For both of this is an important economic relationship and therefore the further liberalisation of economic engagement between us is important.

Over lunch the President and I also spoke about the importance of climate change and the importance of further work still on clean coal technology and we are strongly of the view that action on clean coal technology is important if we are to act globally and effectively on climate change.

Here in the Republic of Korea the impact of carbon emissions from the People's Republic of China is significant in multiple ways. And therefore there is a particular Korean interest in participating more closely with Australia in the work that we have underway domestically on clean coal technologies and a whole range carbon capture and storage.

You would have witnessed also the signing by our Governments respective representatives of the Memorandum of Understanding on Education. There is a strong set of education links between our universities, you would have seen this morning the direct link between the university here and the Australian National University and we will be seeking to expand those links further.

The establishment of the Korean Institute at the Australian National University later this week is one step in that direction. But beyond the study of each other's national studies, that is studies of Korea in Australia and studies Australia here in Korea, it is the academic exchanges right across the spectrum particularly in the life sciences, biosciences and in biotechnology which will be important in the future.

Finally we had also a long discussion about the Asia Pacific Community and it was a good discussion. Constructive, positive, the President indicated his interest in how we improve better the regional cooperation between member states of the Asia Pacific region and the President indicated he was looking forward to receiving the Australia Envoy of Richard Woollcott who is visiting other regional capitals over the coming months.

We believe we will have a strong positive and constructive dialogue with the Korean Government on this question in the period ahead. Because our common objective is to ensure that we have effective multilateral cooperation between the various countries of the region into the future. As I said, I think, in the earlier press conference today, I don't want simply have our countries in this region drift into the future. Instead what I want is for us to collectively and intelligently to shape our future.

I don't want a region which in 20 years times drifts towards any direction of polarisation between China and the United States. I want instead a region which is shaped and unfolds in a way which encourages that habits of cooperation on security matters, political matters and economic matters in the future.

The process of dialogue with our regional partners in the Asia Pacific region, Asia Pacific community, continues and I look forward to continuing those discussions in Singapore tomorrow.

Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister did you discuss North Korea?

PM:Yes we had a long discussion about North Korea and what I indicated quite plainly to President Lee was that we in Australia supported strongly the Republic of Korea's efforts through the six party talks. We understood fully the frustrations which the ROK experiences in dealing with the regime in Pyongyang and the fact that the Pyongyang regime continues to drag the chain when it comes to fulfilling its obligations under the in principle agreements which have been reached so far.

We are on the side of the ROK in this process, strongly supporting their interests and they are a friend, partner and fellow democracy in this region and we would encourage their continued efforts together with our common ally the United States in getting a satisfactory outcome through those talks.

I think it's fair to say that recent developments in the six party talks have been difficult and that is in large part because of the continued intransigence of the North Korean regime.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, on a related topic. Did you discuss your proposed nuclear disarmament commission to strengthen the NPT? If so what response did you get and shouldn't the Republic of Korea be one of the most likely supporters of that endeavour?

PM:We did discuss Australia's proposal for an Independent Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. The Korean Government through the President indicated their interest in this initiative and in the period ahead Gareth Evans' work will obviously include the Koreans strongly within it.

You are right to point out that in this part of the world the Republic of Korea has a strong interest in the overall challenge of nuclear non-proliferation in the activities that have occurred north of its border here in Pyongyang and across the various activities of the North Korean regime.

So President Lee and I have agreed to continue to discuss this in the period ahead. We intend to maintain informed contact with one another using the telephone, on this, on the APC and other common challenges we face in the region.

I also by the way have extended a personal invitation to President Lee to visit Australia and he's indicated he will seek to do so in the first half of next year. That will be subject to the usual diplomatic protocol in the finalisation of timing.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd what the timetable for your expectation or your hope for nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula and have things gone backwards give that (inaudible) years ago we saw the two Koreas marching together into the Olympic stadium but on Friday night they couldn't agree to do that.

PM:Well when you're dealing with Pyongyang the best case outcome is two steps forward, one and half steps backwards, if not two, two and half steps backwards. I mean I've been to North Korea a couple of times and I know the sort of regime we're dealing with there and it's very difficult. And certainly there have been real difficulties in recent times until some manifestation of that, as you rightly pointed out, at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in terms of the North Koreans refusing to march, as I understand it, in sequence with the South Koreans.

But there are two strategic options when it comes to dealing with the problems of the Korean Peninsula; one is to simply say that nothing works therefore don't try; and the other is have a go and that's what the six party talks were about. I commend the Governments of the United States, Japan and China, Republic of Korea and others for working strongly on this set of arrangements.

But North Korea has to step up to the plate and on so many question still they haven't done so effectively. If you look for example at this terrible tragedy which occurred only a few weeks ago at a beach resort in North Korea involving a South Korean tourist. He was shot dead while walking along the beach by a North Korean security personnel. Frankly when you've got that sort of behaviour going on it's pretty hard to achieve a lot of progress quickly.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd the Republic of Korea's is very important to Australian beef farmers as a market and we have seen American beef come in here recently they are working hard on an FTA as well. What's your message to Australian farmers worried about the Korean market and competition with American farmers?

PM:Well I have a view that Aussie beef will always succeed because Aussie beef is better. And I think its frank in its success for example in markets like Japan and Korea have gone to, go down to the quality of our product. I'm pretty confident we are going to be able to compete and compete effectively on that score.

In the future we will always have to be vigilant about our trade policy interests with Korea as with any other country, but I'm confident in this market that Australian beef producers are going to continue to get a fair go.

There is no evidence of any discriminatory approach and I've detected on the part of the Korean Government through my discussions with President Lee on the question of future access for Australian beef.

JOURNALIST: On the Free Trade Agreement Prime Minister how soon could it possibly be adopted (Inaudible)

PM:Well its one step at a time. The advance I believe we have achieved in our discussions today is for us both to agree to the principle of a free trade agreement, that's important. And secondly for preparatory discussions and negotiations to occur in September-October.

This will be a slow process, and my discussions in China as you know, that's been a very slow process. Effective free trade agreements are hard if they are real free trade agreements because they involve substantive negotiations on substantive matters which involve concessions on the part of both parties and for them to be WTO compatible they have to genuinely liberalise trade as oppose to being an exercise in gesture politics.

So this will take a while, so I'm not about to put a timetable around it. What I've been keen to do with President Lee today is to say that this represents a potential new chapter in our relationship. We want to get going, this we think represents a good and practical step forward.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd you've met now the Chinese, the Japanese, the Indonesians, Malaysians and South Koreans I think leadership all face to face since announcing your Asia Pacific Community proposal. Does it worry you or should we take anything from the fact that, as I understand it, none of those leaderships has given an unqualified endorsement of the plan?

PM:The plan as such is for a process of discussion and the objective is clear which is 2020 we'd like to see an Asia Pacific Community where the various countries in the region are able to discuss common economic challenges, political challenges and security challenges, that's the landing point.

What I commenced in the speech I gave to the Australasian Society in Sydney a month or so ago was a process of discussions and if you reflect on the comments that I've made on multiple occasions since then, we expect that this is going to take a long, long time. It will be a long, long process of dialogue, don't expect any rapid breakthroughs. The evolution of regional institutions usually takes time and this will be no different.

Furthermore what I've also said is it will take carefully into account the views put to us by various regional countries and partners and I am quite confident that our process through the special envoy of Richard Woollcott will be able to embrace that.

I keep going back to my fundamental principle here. I'd much rather set an objective, I'd much rather set a date and much rather set up a process of discussion and negotiation than simply be silent and allow things to drift and that's all I have done.

And in discussions so far, they've all been pretty good. President Yudyhono, including with my Malaysian counterpart, including with President Hu Jin Tao and also with of course Prime Minister Fukuda and here with President Lee. All with lots of questions to ask, all probing as to how this thing could work over time, interested in our views..

JOURNALIST: all positive?

PM:As we are interested in their views. I don't wish to characterise the particular positions of any one of them in any particular way. But put it this way no road blocks to date.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM:I've really got to go, I was going to just say something about, I understand Libby Trickett's had a win is that right?

Well Libby fantastic, terrific, all Australians are proud of you and another great outcome for our Australians in the pool.

I would have liked to be able to stay in Beijing for an extra day to see it, but I think there must have been millions of Australians back watching on their TV screens. So good on you Libby, well done. Australia's proud of you.

Transcript 16063