Trump-Turnbull Meeting to be Watched for Tone

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet U.S. President Donald Trump officially for the first time in New York Thursday. But the tone of the meeting will be closely watched following an argument between the two leaders earlier this year.  

This will be the first time the leaders of Australia and the United States will have met since a heated phone call in January, which made headlines around the world.  The fractious nature of that conversation was over a controversial refugee deal Australia struck with the out-going Obama administration last November that would re-settle in the United States more than 1,000 migrants from Australia’s offshore camps on the island of Nauru and another in Papua New Guinea.

The meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Turnbull Thursday will be on board the USS Intrepid — a World War II aircraft carrier that is now a museum in the Hudson River in New York.  The discussions will be part of the 75th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of the Coral Sea, in which U.S.  and Australian naval and air forces took on the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Security issues, including tensions on the Korean peninsula, and trade are expected to dominate the talks.

Professor James Curran is a research associate at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney.

He says Turnbull is not being afforded the usual diplomatic reception.  

“It is not the White House, nor is it Mar-a-Lago in Florida. I think it is a step down in protocol. Whilst the meeting was mooted in February, it has taken a long time to organize it and to lock the president in,” said Curran. “The optics can go two ways: there will be no doubt that this meeting will be an opportunity to talk the language of brothers in arms and shared sacrifice. And it is only right and proper that allies of this longstanding relationship should do that.”

Prime Minister Turnbull said in a statement that his visit to New York would be an opportunity to “reaffirm our alliance and the United States’ engagement with the Asia-Pacific.”

A security pact between Canberra and Washington dates back to the early 1950s.

In April, Turnbull made a surprise visit to Australian forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The event in New York on the USS Intrepid will be hosted by the American-Australian Association, which is headed by former U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry.

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