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Trump vows ‘lasting partnership’ with Australia 75 years after Battle of Coral Sea…

 

Donald Trump has launched an effusive tribute in front of an audience in New York, saying the US has no better friend than Australia, and dismissing any tensions between himself and the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

After first downplaying an infamously combative telephone call with Turnbull shortly after his inauguration, and noting the two leaders were “not babies”, Trump went on to say, in a speech marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, that the ties between the US and Australia “were sealed with the blood of our fathers and grandfathers.”

“With love for our two nations, with pride in our shared history and with faith in almighty God, we renew our old friendship and we pledge our lasting partnership in the search for prosperity and everlasting peace,” Trump said during his speech at the dinner.

Trump had run several hours late for his first face-to-face meeting with Turnbull, delayed by a legislative victory in Washington, with congressional Republicans passing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

Turnbull, who departed from Australia in the week before the budget in order to meet Trump at the invitation of the administration, congratulated the president on the legislative win, noting that he too faced challenges securing the government’s agenda in the Australian Senate.

While Turnbull encouraged Trump to press ahead with his agenda, noting that every positive vote counted, the president quipped in his remarks that Australia had “better health care than we do”.

The two met in New York for 30 minutes, with the bilateral discussion covering national security, trade, immigration and enhanced economic cooperation.

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They also discussed the joint military commitment against Islamic State. Australia has not ruled out making a larger contribution in Afghanistan and Iraq if the US requests it. Turnbull has signalled Australia could build on its current training role.

The security threat posed by North Korea was also discussed. In the lead-up to Friday’s meeting, Turnbull has been publicly urging China to use its diplomatic influence to curb the provocative behaviour by the rogue state.

Trump and Turnbull addressed the commemoration dinner, which was attended by business leaders including the News Corporation chairman, Rupert Murdoch; celebrities including golfer Greg Norman and actor John Travolta; and veterans of the second world war.

Murdoch introduced Trump to the stage, noting by way of preamble that we were living in “dangerous times” and leaders must advance the “frontiers of freedom.”

The media mogul noted that leaders must “be bold and unafraid to think differently in dealing with the challenges we face”, suggesting these were key Trump qualities.

Turnbull in his address paid tribute to the veterans who had turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. The battle of the Coral Sea was the first time that American and Australian navy personnel fought together in a battle against Japan.

“Churchill called this time the hinge of fate and he was so right. The hinge of fate turned to victory for America, Australia and our allies,” the prime minister said.

“Our nations’ freedom was secured by the bravery of the men on those ships and the pilots who flew through everything the enemy and the weather could throw in their way.”

Turnbull said reflecting on the battle of the Coral Sea was a reminder that “the stability and prosperity of our region over so many decades has been secured, and is secured today, by the United States.”

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He said both Australia and the US condemned and resisted “North Korea’s reckless provocation”.

While the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has pleaded publicly with the US to increase its engagement in the Indo-Pacific, the Australian prime minister said Trump had renewed America’s commitment to ensuring peace, stability and the rule of law in our region.

Turnbull said Australia and America were “fiercely competitive, we always want to win but we know we are always more assured of winning when we are fighting together.”

“We are confident and we trust each other.”

Trump committed to the US-Australia alliance, and he said the bond between Washington and Canberra had been forged “in those Pacific waters.”

“We forged iron bonds between our two countries. Few peoples in the world share ties in history, affection and culture like the Americans and the Australians – few, believe me.”

Trump earlier told reporters the refugee resettlement deal, which prompted the testy telephone conversation between the two leaders in early February, was no longer a point of friction.

“That’s all worked out. That has been worked out for a long time,” the president told reporters.

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