Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Pence, Turnbull affirm ties

UNLOVED:A majority of Australians view Donald Trump unfavorably, and critics have urged Canberra to distance itself from Washington in favor of stronger ties with China


US Vice President Mike Pence, left speaks at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney yesterday.

Photo: AFP

US Vice President Mike Pence and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday swept aside any lingering tensions over an agreement on the resettlement of refugees, joining forces to urge China to take a greater role in pressuring North Korea to scuttle its nuclear weapons and missile program.

Pence and Turnbull repeatedly praised the decades-long US-Australian alliance following a meeting in Sydney, with the vice president passing along US President Donald Trump’s “very best regards” and thanking Turnbull for calling on Beijing to be more assertive in the international effort to de-escalate Pyongyang’s nuclear threat.

Pence and Turnbull appeared at pains to present a united front following an unusual period of strain between the longtime allies. The anxieties were sparked by a spat between Turnbull and Trump over a refugee resettlement deal struck by former US President Barack Obama.

Pence on Saturday said that the US would honor the agreement even if the administration did not agree with it. Under the deal, the US would take up to 1,250 refugees housed by Australia in detention camps on the Pacific Island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Trump’s anger over the agreement led to a tense telephone call with Turnbull in January and an angry tweet in which the president called the deal “dumb.”

“President Trump has made it clear that we’ll honor the agreement — that doesn’t mean we admire the agreement,” Pence said during a joint news conference with Turnbull.

The prime minister said that “whatever the reservations of the president are,” the decision “speaks volumes for the commitment, the integrity of President Trump, and your administration, sir, to honor that commitment.”

A majority of Australians view Trump unfavorably, and some critics of him have urged Australia to distance itself from the US in favor of stronger ties with China.

Turnbull has resisted pressure to choose between the two countries, both of which are considered vital allies; the US is Australia’s most important security partner, while China is its most important trading partner.

Pence’s visit to the nation, part of his 10-day, four-nation trip to the Pacific Rim, was widely viewed as an effort to smooth over relations with Australia.

The vice president seemed determined to reassure Australia of its importance to the US, saying as he stood next to Canberra on the shores of Sydney Harbour: “It’s always heartening to stand beside a friend, and I do so today.”

Pence said the US believes that it will be possible to achieve its objective of ending North Korea’s nuclear program peacefully, largely with the help of China.

Turnbull echoed the sentiments, saying: “The eyes of the world are on Beijing.”

US supercarrier Carl Vinson is to arrive in the Sea of Japan in days, Pence said.

“Our expectation is that they will be in the Sea of Japan in position in a matter of days, before the end of this month,” Pence told reporters in Sydney. “[What] the regime in North Korea should make no mistake about, is that the United States has the resources, the personnel and the presence in this region of the world to see to our interests and to see to the security of those interests and our allies.”

Additional reporting AFP

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