SYDNEY (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden told Australians on Wednesday that the "better angels in America will prevail" in the divisive election unfolding in the U.S., as he wrapped up his tour of Australia with a plea that human dignity transcend xenophobia in both countries.
Biden made the comments in a speech punctuating his four-day trip Down Under, during which he met with the nation's leaders and troops in a bid to reassert America's standing as a so-called Pacific power in the region.
In his speech, the vice president said that while both Australia and the U.S. had been strengthened by generations of courageous immigrants, both still grapple with racism and exclusion that leaves many citizens behind.
"But we strive to overcome. We seek change. ... So don't worry about our election," Biden said, prompting laughter from the audience. "The better angels in America will prevail. So at a time like this, in the face of xenophobia and demagoguery and what is being trumpeted around the world, we have to remember who we are as Australians and Americans and reflect our best selves back to the world."
Biden spent much of his time in Australia reiterating the importance of the Australian-U.S. relationship in America's military pivot to Asia. Five years ago, President Barack Obama used his own trip to Australia to announce the U.S. was shifting its priorities to the Asia-Pacific region. Since then, American troops have begun rotating through the northern Australian port city of Darwin.
"I've spent a great deal of time with (Chinese) President Xi," Biden said. "When he asked me why we were so engaged, I pointed out we are a Pacific nation. That is who we are. And we will maintain that posture, as long as we exist."
At a meeting on Tuesday, the vice president and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull discussed the recent ruling by an international tribunal denying Beijing's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. Both countries have urged China to abide by the ruling, with Biden saying on Wednesday: "Without secure sea lanes and open skies, commerce cannot thrive."
Biden's visit to Australia also included some lighter moments, including a sunset cruise on Sydney's harbor and a trip to the zoo, where he and his granddaughters patted a koala and met a kangaroo.
The vice president flies to New Zealand later Wednesday, where he will meet with Prime Minister John Key before returning to the U.S.