United States will honor 'dumb' Australian refugee deal

Posted May 03, 2017

The Vice-President was in Sydney for talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on a trip aimed at mending fences following a surly phone conversation between Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull in January, which rattled a longstanding alliance between the two powers.

During Trump's initial phone call with Turnbull, Trump criticized an Obama administration refugee resettlement deal with Australia that would bring refugees from Australia to the United States.

"The President and I have, in his words, great confidence that China will deal with North Korea, and I know [Australia] shares that hope", Mr Pence said. Pence said the USA believes that it will be possible to peacefully end North Korea's nuclear program, largely with the help of China.

Mr Pence also praised China's role in the escalating North Korean crisis but renewed calls for Beijing to use its "unique" position to bring Pyongyang to heel. "We seek leadership from China to join the leadership shown by the United States and Japan and Australia and other nations around the world committed to peace".

Vice President Mike Pence said the United States would "honor" a deal with Australia in the waning days of former President Barack Obama's term to resettle refugees, an agreement President Donald Trump called "dumb".

Early last week, Mr Trump said he had sent an "armada" towards North Korea to serve as a warning to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

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US Homeland Security officials have been on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea to do fingerprinting and security interviews with refugees in the past few weeks.

Mr Pence told a joint news conference with Mr Turnbull that the deal would be subject to vetting, and that honouring it "doesn't mean that we admire the agreement".

But the promise from Mr Pence is still the clearest indication from the administration's upper echelons that some refugees will actually be resettled in the United States, although the exact number of people who will be allowed in remains unclear. "We will honour this agreement out of respect to this enormously important alliance", Mr Pence said at Mr Turnbull's harbourside official residence in Sydney.

Pence said his trip to Australia during the first three months of Trump's administration and Trump's plans to travel to Asia next fall are strong signs "of our enduring commitment" to that part of the world.

Also, Pence was to meet with the Australian opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten and with some business executives. "And the president wanted me to, early in this administration, to reaffirm the strong and historical alliance between the United States and Australia".