April 21, 2017

Mike Pence and rebooting the Australia-US alliance

By Richard Fontaine

When Vice President Mike Pence lands in Australia, the last stop on his Asia-Pacific tour, he'll witness a country debating its close ties with the United States. Worries about China's rise and US engagement, coupled with reverberations from the 2016 presidential election, have left many Australians wondering how tightly to embrace their American ally.

In this there is peril but also opportunity. Pence's visit to Australia – the first by a senior Trump administration official since inauguration – should help renew an alliance that has paid great dividends for both sides. But renewal won't happen automatically. As Secretary of Defence James Mattis recently said, "No relationship stays the same. It gets better or it diminishes." It's now up to American and Australian leaders to see that their critical relationship gets better.

There's work to do. Today, though support for the alliance remains strong in the abstract, there are worrying signs of dissension. In a poll taken last year, nearly 40 per cent of those who support the alliance nevertheless believed that Australia should distance itself from a Trump administration. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has said that the alliance should be scrapped, and several prominent politicians have joined the call. Behind such sentiments are a recognition of Australia's important economic relationship with China and worries that, when it comes to Asia, the United States will be ambivalent, absent, or simply apathetic.

Read the full article at the Australian Financial Review.

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