Former Australian PM Kevin Rudd sounding out world leaders over post of UN chief: Julie Bishop

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) - Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been visiting world leaders and expressed an interest in running for secretary-general of the United Nations, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

Speaking in Washington following the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Barack Obama and attended by 50 other world leaders, Ms Bishop said that during her meetings "a number of people" mentioned the interest of different candidates in the UN job.

"It's quite apparent that there are still a number of people yet to put their hand up," she said, confirming when asked by reporters that Mr Rudd's name had been raised.

"It seems that Mr Rudd has visited a number of people and expressed an interest," Ms Bishop said on Friday. "He has not formally asked the Australian government for support, but there are a number of other countries who have also indicated to us that they will be nominating another candidate."

Under the world body's customs, the post of secretary- general rotates between regions: It is now eastern Europe's turn and two Bulgarian women have been nominated.

The top job at the UN is selected by the Security Council, which means permanent members Russia and the US hold a lot of sway, and the latter has pressed for the first-ever female head of the organization.

"There is a view that it's eastern Europe's turn," Ms Bishop said. "There are others who believe it is time for a woman to be nominated as a secretary-general and there are a number of female candidates. So I think there's a long way to go."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday the next secretary-general should be from eastern Europe because it's the only region not to have held the role. He said Russia had not decided which candidate to support.

Current Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's second term ends on Dec 31, 2016.

Asked whether the people who raised Mr Rudd's name had indicated they would support him, Ms Bishop said they had not.

"They were talking about the number of potential candidates," she said. "The field is quite wide open."

Ms Bishop also responded to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's suggestion that South Korea and Japan be armed with nuclear weapons.

She said as a long-time supporter of the Non Proliferation Treaty, Australia is committed to reducing the spread of nuclear weapons and she couldn't envisage a scenario where it would support such a move.

Her boss, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, backed those remarks on Sunday.  "We would strenuously oppose as a global community the further proliferation of nuclear weapons," he said.

Providing Japan and South Korea with such weapons "would add considerably to tensions and the risk of conflict in the region," Mr Turnbull said.

Ms Bishop said Australia has been in contact with representatives of the Trump campaign through its embassy in Washington.