US VP Pence visits Australia
Seen by some as a more measured voice in US President Donald Trump’s inner circle, just three months after the Trump Administration took office, Australia is playing host to Vice President Mike Pence.
He’s landing in the country to shore up the US-Australia alliance amid international fears about the unpredictability of his boss.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will play host and has told the ABC he’s looking forward to the meeting.
“It is very noteworthy that this is a very early visit; I believe the earliest visit by a Vice President to Australia in a new administration. It shows … ah, you know … many people, including wise people in the media, were sceptical about the Administration’s commitment to the region.”
Australia is the final stop on the vice-president’s ten-day tour of the Asia Pacific.
Given North Korea’s nuclear missile ambitions, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
However, while speaking in Japan, Vice President Pence seemed to echo the calls of President Trump that a diplomatic approach to North Korea is no longer possible.
“North Korea is the most dangerous and urgent threat to the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific. As President Trump has made clear to the world, the era of strategic patience is over.”
For Australia, this visit will give an insight into what the Trump Administration has planned for trade negotations too.
The US claims it’s open to boosting trade in the region despite abandoning the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But it’s already signalled it won’t continue doing deals when it’s not in its national interest; in other words, deals in which the US gives more than it gets in return.
Dougal Robinson, a research fellow with the United States Studies Centre, says this visit will need to go some way towards repairing the US Australia relationship.
“It’s an important visit because Pence will be trying to reassure Australia that the US is fully committed to the US-Australia alliance after the phone call with President Trump.”
That hostile call three months ago saw Donald Trump reportedly describe the refugee resettlement arrangement with Australia – signed under the Obama Administration – as the worst deal ever.
The Administration has since committed to honouring it, which will see asylum-seekers from Manus Island and Nauru resettled in the United States.
Prime Minister Turnbull welcomes the day when President Trump makes his first visit.
“Our alliance with the United States is vital, the commitment is so deep on both sides, it will survive many Prime Ministers and many Presidents. That commitment is rock solid.”