The US will honor a 'dumb' refugee deal with Australia

US President Donald Trump may have branded a deal the Obama administration struck with Australia to resettle up to 1,250 refugees in America as "dumb", but his vice president has now assured the Aussies that Washington will honor it anyway.

Under the deal signed in late 2016, the White House had agreed that Australia would send to the USA refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq who arrive at its offshore processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

The vice president made the commitment - subject to the refugees passing stringent U.S. vetting procedures - at a joint news conference in Sydney with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with whom Pres. Trump reportedly had a testy first call because of the refugee issue.

"We will honor this agreement out of respect to this enormously important alliance", Pence said at Turnbull's harbor side official residence.

Turnbull in his remarks thanked Pence for honoring the agreement, saying it spoke to the "integrity" of Trump and his administration.

As tension with North Korea continues, he used the occasion to announce that a United States naval strike group would arrive in the Sea of Japan in days.

"We are sending an armada".

Trump and other officials followed up with comments that made it sound like the ships were steaming towards the region.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said the Vinson was "on her way up".

But the Navy admitted Tuesday the ships were in fact sent in the opposite direction - away from Singapore and towards Australia to conduct drills with the Australian navy.

Turnbull has resisted pressure to choose between the two countries, both of which are considered vital allies; the USA is Australia's most important security partner, while China is its most important trading partner. Turnbull continued to give a speech highlighting the history of the US/Australian alliance since World War I, and emphasizing the cause of "freedom", and emphasizing Australia's loyalty.

Pence said the US believes that it will be possible to achieve its objective of ending North Korea's nuclear program peacefully, largely with the help of China.

"We do believe China can do more", he added.

Pence said his trip to Australia during the administration's first three months in office and Trump's plans to travel to Asia next fall represented "a strong sign of our enduring commitment to the historic alliance between the people of the United States of America and the people of Australia".

"Our friendship has been forged in the fire of sacrifice", Pence said.

Pence said Wednesday that the United States would counter any North Korean attack with an "overwhelming and effective" response.

  • Zachary Reyes