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Australia Foreign Minister: Trump, U.S. Must Lead in Asia

LOS ANGELES — Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said Thursday evening that the United States should reject isolationism even after quitting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and lead in Asia to resist China’s naval ambitions.

Addressing an audience in the Skirball Cultural Center on the occasion of Australia Day, Bishop said that the inauguration of President Donald Trump provided an opportunity to renew the relationship between the two nations. She said that despite the U.S. withdrawal from TPP,  “the United States continues to be a great trading nation of the world.”

Australia remains part of the TPP, and its government has suggested ratifying the treaty even in the absence of the U.S. The U.S. and Australia already have a bilateral free trade agreement, which entered into force since 2005.

Bishop also addressed the Trump’s administration’s emphasis on other countries contributing their share to global security: “Australia can be relied upon to play its part in the defense of our region,” Bishop said, listing several ongoing examples of Australian military cooperation.

Bishop insisted, however, that U.S. leadership must continue in Asia and the western Pacific, to ensure security and economic growth: “We see the United States as the most important power to ensure peace prosperity, and stability in our region,” she said, adding that Australia would continue to be “prepared to defend — and, if necessary — fight for the values we share.”

She suggested that while neither Australia nor the U.S. were members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the nations of Southeast Asia were both the geographic and diplomatic centers of the region, and that both Australia and the U.S. should consider playing a more active role in the organization. She said that while Australia “welcomes China’s rise,” she also expressed concern about China’s expansion in the South China Sea, especially on artificial islands.

Bishop said that President Trump should attend the 12th ASEAN summit in the Philippines later this year: “…it will be critical that President Trump attend as the leader of the critical strategic power in the region,” she said.

“We see the United States as the indispensable power in the Indo-Pacific,” and that it had “underwritten the region’s growth.” Most nations in the region wanted to see more, not less, American leadership, she said, and would prefer the U.S. to lead rather than other powers.

During a question-and-answer period, Bishop was asked how Australia could best make the case for its special relationship with the U.S. She answer that Australia had demonstrated, again and again, that “we can be relied upon,” especially in war.

Bishop’s address was billed by her ministry as part of the “G’Day USA Dialogue on Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific – the Australian Government’s first foreign policy address in the United States since the change of US administration.”

Prior to Bishop’s remarks, Australia’s ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey, said that Trump’s election was a clear signal that the center of power in America was shifting outside Washington. He also noted that Australia’s government was one of the few that were re-elected (though by a small margin) in the ongoing global wave of anti-incumbent populist movements.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Secretary of Defense James Mattis would make his first overseas trip to Asia next week.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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