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US will honour Obama's "dumb" refugee deal with Australia

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By Emma Clark
US will honour Obama's "dumb" refugee deal with Australia

The United States will honour a refugee deal with Australia that President Donald Trump described as “dumb”.

Vice President Mike Pence said the US would accept the agreement out of respect to its alliance with Australia.

Speaking in Sydney alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, he said the 1,250 asylum seekers would be heavily vetted.

Mike Pence: “President Trump has made it clear that we’ll honour the agreement. It doesn’t mean we admire the agreement.

“Frankly, looking back on the last administration, the president has never been shy about expressing frustration with other international agreements, most notably the so-called nuclear agreement with Iran.”

Under the deal, agreed with former President Barack Obama late last year, the United States would resettle up to 1,250 asylum seekers held in controversial offshore processing camps on South Pacific islands in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

In return, Australia would resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Australia’s relationship with the new administration in Washington got off to a rocky start when Trump lambasted Turnbull over the resettlement arrangement.

Details of an acrimonious phone call between the pair soon after Trump took office made headlines around the world.

Australia is one of Washington’s staunchest allies and has sent troopsto fight alongside the U.S. military in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speaking at the end of his Asia-Pacific tour, that took in South Korea, Japan and Indonesia, amid disputes in the South China Sea and tension on the Korean peninsula.

Pence announced an aircraft carrier-led flotilla, thought to have been heading to North Korea, would be in the Sea of Japan within days.

He said the US believes a nuclear-free Korean peninsula can be achieved peacefully because of the country’s new engagement with China.