WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama is welcoming his first foreign leader of the new year, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, for talks that will cover the Islamic State militant group and a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade agreement that includes their countries.
Other global, regional and bilateral issues are also on Tuesday’s agenda for meetings the White House says will cover the “extraordinary breadth” of the U.S.-Australian alliance.
Turnbull is on his first visit to the U.S. since taking office last September. Obama will welcome him to the Oval Office before continuing their talks over a working lunch.
Last week, as Turnbull prepared for the trip, Australia said it was among 40 countries being pressed by the U.S. to boost their military contributions in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris in November. But Australia told the U.S. that its commitment would remain largely unchanged.
Australia has six jet fighters based in Dubai flying missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. It also has soldiers in non-combat roles in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Obama and Turnbull held their first formal meeting since Turnbull’s election on the sidelines of an economic summit in Manila in November. Obama said after that meeting that they had discussed the fight against extremism, as well as the need to increase international pressure on the Islamic State group.
Obama also praised the U.S. alliance with Australia. “One of the things when we speak to our Australian partners is there are very few things we disagree on,” he said in November.
Turnbull said in Manila that Australia will continue “shoulder to shoulder” with the U.S. in the mission against the Islamic State group.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Turnbull met Monday at the Pentagon. They reviewed recent developments in Iraq and Syria, and security issues in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.