We need to keep trying on North Korea: Julie Bishop

Julie Bishop has played down comments that negotiations with North Korea are a waste of time. (AAP)

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has played down Donald Trump's comments that negotiations with North Korea are a waste of time.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists the diplomatic efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear weapons program should continue despite Donald Trump's suggestion negotiations are a waste of time.

"I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," the US president tweeted a day after it emerged the US was talking directly with North Korea via diplomatic back channels.

"Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"

Ms Bishop believes President Trump was referring to the fact that North Korea has failed to live up to any of the agreements that have been negotiated in the past.

"However, that doesn't mean that we should stop trying," she told reporters in Perth on Monday.

"I believe we must continue to find the political and diplomatic and economic means to pressure North Korea to bring it back to the negotiating table."

Mr Tillerson revealed at the weekend - after meeting with top Chinese officials including President Xi Jinping - that the US was communicating directly with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs but Pyongyang had shown no interest in dialogue.

Ms Bishop praised Mr Trump's pressure on China, saying it has resulted in Beijing playing an active role in implementing the economic sanctions.

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong has recently returned from a visit to South Korea and warned military conflict needs to be avoided.

"The fundamentals are we need to de-escalate this crisis," she told reporters in Perth.

Senator Wong said she doesn't comment on Mr Trump's tweets.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch