Pence flies to Australia to discuss security, trade

Indo Asian News Service

Sydney, April 21 (IANS) US Vice President Mike Pence was due to arrive in Australia on Friday evening for the last leg of his Asia-Pacific tour, with regional security, the fight against terror, and trade set to dominate talks.

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the Syrian conflict will also figure in talks during Pence's two-day visit, Efe news reported.

Pence is the most senior US official to visit Australia since US President Donald Trump's inauguration in January.

Speaking to Channel 7 shortly before Pence's arrival, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said they would discuss a range of issues, but top of the agenda will be regional security.

"North Korea is going to be right at the top of the agenda. Also, of course, the global battle against terrorism," he said.

The Australian leader also thanked the new US administration's promptness in sending Pence to Australia, interpreting it as a sign of close Washington-Canberra ties.

"We're really appreciative that so early in this new Trump administration, the Vice President has come out to the region and visited Australia", Turnbull said.

The visit could help make a fresh start after a much-publicised strained telephone conversation between the two leaders shortly after Trump assumed office.

The US media had reported that US President Donald Trump abruptly cut short the call due to differences over a refugee resettlement agreement that Australia had signed with the Barack Obama-led US administration, dubbed a "dumb deal" by the new US President.

Besides meeting Turnbull and Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Pence will also meet Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, opposition leader Bill Shorten, and members of the armed forces.

On Monday, he will fly to Hawaii to conclude his ten-day official tour of the Asia-Pacific.

--IANS

soni/dg