SYDNEY (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Monday condemned the slaying of three police officers in Louisiana, dubbing the shootings a "despicable act."
Biden, who made the comments during a speech at a Boeing factory he is visiting in Australia, said while the details and motive behind the killings remain unclear, the public owes police officers in general a debt of gratitude for putting their lives on the line.
"It's a despicable act and it's an attack on our very way of life at home," Biden told a crowd at the Boeing facility.
The slayings occurred in the city of Baton Rouge, less than two weeks after a black man was fatally shot by police there in a confrontation that sparked protests across the country. The officers had been investigating a report of a man with an assault rifle when they were killed. Three other officers were wounded, one critically. Police said the gunman was killed at the scene.
"My enduring thanks for every police officer who gets up in the morning and goes out on that night shift. And they look for one thing — they kiss their wife good-bye or their husband and they want to go home and tuck in their kids," Biden said. "They have a right to do that. They have a right to be able to be protected and we owe them big."
Biden is in Australia as part of a tour of the Pacific. Prior to his speech, he met with Boeing workers and toured the multi-million dollar factory, which manufactures wing flaps for the Dreamliner 787 aircraft.
Later, Biden flew to Sydney where he met with business leaders for a round-table discussion at the Opera House. During the meeting, he discussed the importance of investing in modern infrastructure, protecting intellectual property rights and passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious trade pact with Asian nations.
"It's going to be hard to pass in both our countries — maybe not as hard for you; we're going to try during the lame duck session of the United States congress," Biden said. "Some of the changes — the growth of xenophobia in my country, the nature of the debate of the campaign that is preying on fear and not on hopes, who knows what it's going to take?"
Biden also spoke of Australia's importance in the U.S. pivot to Asia, saying the country was at "the epicenter of where the world economy is moving."
"It seems to me you are the single more important cog in the wheel as to whether or not we can change the dynamic in the region," Biden said. "It's not only economic growth, but there's political stability."
While in Sydney, Biden will meet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other officials, before heading to New Zealand on Wednesday.