SYDNEY: The US will honor a controversial agreement with Australia to take refugees from Pacific island detention centers, Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday—a deal Donald Trump had previously branded “dumb.”
Pence also sought to clear the waters about the location of US supercarrier Carl Vinson that was supposedly steaming towards North Korea, saying it would arrive in the Sea of Japan “in a matter of days.”
The vice president was in Sydney for talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on a trip aimed at mending fences following a surly phone conversation between Trump and Turnbull in January, which rattled a long-standing alliance between the two powers.
Trump reportedly exploded and cut short the telephone call when he was told about a deal to move some refugees from Pacific island camps to America.
“The United States intends to honor the agreement, subject to the results of the vetting processes that now apply to all refugees considered for admission to the United States of America,” Pence said.
The US commitment to take the refugees was “a reflection of the enormous importance of the historical alliance between the United States and Australia… whatever reservations the president may have about the details.”
But he added that that this “doesn’t mean we admire the agreement”.
Turnbull thanked Pence for the “very important” commitment.
Pence also praised China’s role in the escalating North Korean crisis but renewed calls for Beijing to use its “unique” position to bring Pyongyang to heel.
Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang have soared recently following a series of missile launches amid fears that the North may be readying a sixth nuclear test.
“The steps we’re seeing China take, in many ways unprecedented steps, bringing economic pressure to bear on North Korea are very welcome,” Pence said.
“We do believe China can do more.”