Vice President Mike Pence has said the US will honor a refugee swap deal with Australia. Pence is in Australia to patch up a rocky start to relations under the Trump administration.
US Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday the United States would honor a refugee deal with Australia, even though the Trump administration doesn't "admire" it.
Under the deal that President Donald Trump described as "dumb," the United States would take up to 1,250 asylum seekers in detention camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. In exchange, Australia would take asylum seekers in the United States from El Salvador Guatemala and Honduras.
"We will honor this agreement out of respect to this enormously important alliance," Pence told a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney.
The White House has already said it will apply "extreme vetting" to the asylum seekers. For Australia, closing the detention centers has become a major political and legal issue.
Pence is in Australia to patch up a bumpy start to relations between the two historic allies after Trump and Turnbull tussled over the refugee resettlement deal struck by the Obama administration.
Details of the two leaders' first contentious phone call made headlines in January.
Pence is on a 10-day, four country trip that has already included visits to Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. The vice president is the first senior Trump administration official to visit Australia.
It comes as there are heightened tensions in the region over North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile program.
Pence and Turnbull agreed that China should use its leverage over North Korea to force it to end its nuclear program. The United States, which has said all options are on the table to deal with North Korea, believes there is peaceful solution with the help of China, Pence said.
"The eyes of the world are on Beijing," Turnbull said, echoing Pence.
cw/rc (AP, Reuters)