CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's prime minister said Wednesday he is looking forward to meeting President Donald Trump next week when they attend Battle of the Coral Sea commemorations in New York, more than three months after their heated telephone conversation over an Obama-era refugee deal.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the May 4 visit in a statement after meeting in Afghanistan with Defense Secretary James Mattis and greeting Australian troops in the Middle East ahead of Veterans' Day commemorations on Tuesday.
Turnbull met in Sydney over the weekend with Vice President Mike Pence, whose visit was intended to smooth over any lingering hard feelings after the prime minister's contentious phone call with Trump on Jan. 28 over a refugee resettlement deal struck by the previous Obama administration.
Trump and Turnbull will mark the 75th anniversary of a World War II naval battle by visiting the USS Intrepid, a floating museum in New York. U.S. and Australian naval and air forces fought the Japanese during the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 4-8, 1942.
"Australia and the United States are enduring allies. Our alliance has been forged over many decades, through times of war and times of peace, securing our nations' freedom and peace and security in the world," Turnbull said in a statement.
"My meeting with President Trump will provide an opportunity to reaffirm our alliance and the United States' engagement with the Asia-Pacific," he added.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the leaders will hold a bilateral meeting on the same day as they visit the aircraft carrier on the Hudson River. "The president looks forward to meeting the prime minister and to showcasing the enduring bonds, deep friendship and close alliance the United States has with Australia," Spicer told reporters in Washington.
John Berry, former U.S. ambassador to Australia and president of the American Australian Association, which organized the visit, said it was important that Turnbull meet Trump early in the president's term.
"Right now, Australia is side by side with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria taking on ISIL and terrorists," Berry told Sky News television, referring to the Islamic State movement.
"The president and vice president are now keenly aware just how deep and broad this relationship is," Berry added.
Australia is unhappy with Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
Under the refugee resettlement agreement, the United States will take up to 1,250 refugees that Australia houses in detention camps on the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Trump, who campaigned on tough-on-immigration policies, was enraged by the agreement, prompting a tense phone call with Turnbull and an angry tweet in which the president dubbed the deal "dumb."
Spicer's subsequent mispronunciation of Turnbull's name as "Trumbull" did not help matters.
Turnbull on Tuesday left open the possibility of Australia increasing its military contribution in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. He also announced an additional 110 million Australian dollars ($83 million) over three years in humanitarian and stabilization assistance for Iraq.