Australian PM embarks US trip to mend relations, discuss regional security

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/5/3 13:53:35

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will depart for a whirlwind trip to the United States on Wednesday, during which he will meet US President Donald Trump for the first time since Trump took office.

The meeting between the two leaders will take place in Trump's hometown of New York, on the deck of World War II-era aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid, as it coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, during which Australian and US forces repelled Japanese Imperial Army.

Turnbull will be required back in Australia before the weekend to finalize details of the nation's federal budget, set to be handed down by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Tuesday, but said the "flying visit" to the US would involve discussion about regional issues and trade.

Turnbull and Trump had an infamous phone call in January, which Trump labeled as his "worst" of the day and reportedly cut short the scheduled one-hour telephone conversation to 25 minutes.

Turnbull before embarking his US trip brushed off concerns that the relationship between the two leaders was already strained following the fallout to the phone call.

"We'll talk about a wide range of security and economic issues," Turnbull said of the meeting.

"(But) reports (of the phone call) were pretty exaggerated. It was a very frank, courteous and forthright call."

By emphasizing that his trip will "commemorate and honor" the Battle of the Coral Sea -- which protected Australia from a Japanese invasion, Turnbull would like to remind the US the camaraderie that both countries share since the World War II.

"It's a great event that we're both attending. It's on the USS Intrepid and there'll be both Australian and American veterans. This was the sea battle in 1942 which was the first time the Japanese were turned back and defeated," Turnbull talked about the scheduled ceremony on Wednesday.

"This was a great turning point in the war, so it's really a time to celebrate, commemorate and honor the rock solid alliance between Australia and the United States."

While describing the year 1942 as "bleak," Turnbull and Trump are facing with the gravest regional security situation in many decades as the tension on the Korean Peninsula is escalating recently.

Turnbull confirmed in an interview with local television program that the issue of Korean Peninsula will be top of the topics between him and Trump.

The Labor opposition has also weighed in before Turnbull's visit to the United States. Labor's defence spokesman Richard Marles told Sky News that maintaining a close relationship with the US was crucial to Australia's prosperity.

"When you assess the value of the alliance with the US -- irrespective of who is the President and who is the Prime Minister -- it becomes clear how important this relationship is to Australia in terms of defence, in terms of the economy, in terms of scientific cooperation and in medical research," Marles said.

"So I think it is really important that the alliance is invested in by Australia because it remains the centerpiece of Australian foreign policy and the nation's defence strategy."

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