Trump to meet Australian PM, relations strained over asylum seekers

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 25, 2017 3:00 PM

By Colin Packham and Jeff Mason

SYDNEY/WASHINGTON (Reuters)) - U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on May 4 in New York City as the two nations seek to repair a relationship strained by a row over an asylum seeker resettlement deal.

The meeting will be the first between the two leaders.

Relations were strained after an acrimonious telephone call shortly after Trump's inauguration, during which Trump labeled the Australia-U.S. resettlement swap agree to with former U.S. President Barack Obama as a "dumb" deal.

Turnbull said the 75th anniversary of the World War Two "Battle of the Coral Sea" celebrations in New York City offered a chance for the two nations to "reaffirm our alliance".

The bilateral meeting will follow a speech by Trump aboard the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier turned museum on the Hudson River, to mark the anniversary of the Coral Sea battle, during which U.S. and Australian troops fought the Japanese, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Australia is one of Washington's staunchest allies and troops from the two nations have fought alongside each other in all major conflicts, most recently Iraq and Afghanistan.

Late last year, Obama agreed to resettle up to 1,250 asylum seekers held in Australian-funded camps in the South Pacific, in exchange for Australia resettling refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

But in February, Trump criticized the deal, accusing Australia of trying to export the "next Boston bombers" under the agreement, the Washington Post reported.

Eager to repair the relationship, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence last week visited Australia and confirmed Washington would begrudgingly honor the refugee deal with Canberra, only out of respect for the alliance between the two countries.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Michael Perry)