Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Monday (March 13) the new U.S. administration wishes to engage with China to resolve the North Korean issue.
Bishop spoke at a forum in Singapore of her recent visit to the United States and her meetings with top U.S. officials including the vice president, the secretary of state, and the newly appointed national security advisor.
She said it was too early to hear about changes in foreign policy from the administration of President Donald Trump.
“Clearly, the administration has its priorities. It wants to have a constructive relationship with China but it sees China as a competitor. It sees North Korea as a significant regional and global threat and wants to engage China more deeply in trying to find a resolution. So while there were clear priorities, it was also evident to me that it’s very early days that we were not about to hear wholesale changes of foreign policy until they’d reviewed and assessed where they stood,” said Bishop.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a string of missile tests since the beginning of last year, despite imposed new U.N. sanctions. In response the United States began deploying an advanced anti-missile system in South Korea to counter “continued provocative actions” infuriating China.
Bishop then spoke of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of the world’s biggest multinational trade deals covering 40 percent of the world economy, and China’s position toward the multipartner trade agreement.
“The TPP sets a very high standard in terms of free trade agreement and I don’t think we should expect that China is currently in a position to meet that standard,” she said referring to a conversation she had with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The TPP had been the main economic pillar of the former U.S. administration’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific region in the face of a fast-rising China, but in January President Trump withdrew from the TPP trade agreement.
Proponents of the pact have expressed concerns that abandoning the project, which took years to negotiate, could further strengthen China’s economic hand in the region at the expense of the United States.
Bishop also defended Australia’s border protection policies saying the number of asylum seekers drowning in Australian waters has dropped since new policies have been imposed.