POLITICS

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence Is En Route To Australia

Malcolm Turnbull says the visit shows the United States' commitment to Australia is 'very real'.

21/04/2017 9:56 AM AEST | Updated 21/04/2017 9:57 AM AEST

As tensions threaten to boil over between the United States and North Korea, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is en route to Australia in a visit expected to focus on regional security and trade.

Arriving in Sydney on Friday night, Pence will spend two days in Sydney as one of the final legs in his whirlwind tour of Asia which began last Saturday.

Amid concerns that Trump plans to withdraw focus from the region, the visit is designed to both reassure the United States' foreign partners and gauge the mood within Asia towards the most unconventional administration in America's history.

America's second-in-command has been billed -- both to America's foreign partners and US Republicans uneasy at the unpredictable Trump administration -- as the steadying hand in the White House.

Mike Pence will meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, and members of the U.S. and Australian militaries during his visit, before departing for Hawaii on Monday.

The growing tensions on the Korean peninsula, America-China relations and the remaining trade barriers between Australia and the world power are expected to feature prominently in talks between Pence and Australian political figures.

Many people, including wise people in the media, were sceptical of the Trump administration's commitment to the region, and as you can see the commitment is very real."

Pence's visit to Australia so early on in Trump's Presidency was evidence of our importance as an international ally to the US, Malcom Turnbull told ABC's 7:30 on Thursday night.

"I believe this is the earliest visit by a Vice President to Australia," Turnbull said.

"Many people, including wise people in the media, were sceptical of the Trump administration's commitment to the region, and as you can see the commitment is very real."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop invited Pence to visit Australia when they met in Washington in February. She has been vocal about the need for the US to become more involved in Asia.

"Vice-President Pence is a very reassuring figure," one senior Canberra source told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to Australia, James Carouso, told the ABC that the Vice-President's visit to Australia underlines the importance of Australia to the United States.

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Indonesia's President Joko Widodo met with US Vice President Mike Pence in Jakarta on Thursday.

"His goal really is to reassure Australia of the closeness of the relationship, the value that the United States puts on this relationship, and that this is something the new administration intends to work on going forward," he said.

Pence's visit will be the first time a U.S. Vice President has come to Australia before a President in nearly 30 years. His wife Karen and daughter Charlotte and Audrey are accompanying him on the visit.

Karen Pence has an extremely close relationship with the Vice President, who reportedly won't dine alone with another woman or attend events where alcohol is served without her by his side.

NSW Police has warned Sydneysiders of road closures and heightened security during Pence's visit. Special clearways will be set up in and around the Sydney CBD, Kirribilli and Mosman, between 10am Friday and 10am Monday with motorists unable to park on certain roads during this time.

Pence is also expected to take a cruise on Sydney Harbour, Sky News reports, resulting in potential disruptions to Sydney's public transport ruites, including ferries.

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