CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – Australia’s prime minister said he invited President Joe Biden to visit in September during a “very warm and engaging“ phone call between the two leaders on Thursday.
“He sees the Australia-U.S. relationship as providing the anchor for peace and security in our region,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “And that is true. We share that view. In terms of our relations between Australia and the United States, there’s nothing to fix there, only things to build on.”
The White House later said Biden described Australia as an anchor of stability in the “Indo-Pacific and the world.”
“They also agreed to work together, alongside other allies and partners, to hold to account those responsible for the coup in Burma,” the White House statement said, referring to the country also known as Myanmar.
“The leaders affirmed their commitment to working together to advance our shared values, global security and prosperity,” it added.
Morrison invited Biden to visit Australia to mark the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty, a defense agreement that once included New Zealand and was signed on Sept. 1, 1950.
Morrison said Biden reacted positively to the invitation.
“He told me he needs no special reason to come to Australia, he loves the place,” Morrison said.
“But they (Biden and first lady Jill Biden) would very much like to be in Australia at some point, and we’ll see how that progresses.”
American presidents making the 15,900-kilometer (9,900-mile) flight between the two national capitals typically incorporate visits to Asia or Southeast Asian capitals.
Diplomatic travel has been virtually halted around the world by the coronavirus pandemic, but success in vaccinating people would allow for such trips to resume.
Australia has made exemptions to its own strict travel restrictions for important allies.
Australia’s defense and foreign ministers highlighted the importance of the U.S. relationship by flying to Washington, D.C., for an annual bilateral meeting in July. They had to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks on their return.
Morrison’s only overseas trip of the pandemic was to meet Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in November. He also had to quarantine on his return.
Morrison said his conversation with the president also covered the alliance the two nations share with Japan and India known as the Quad as well as the Five-Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership that includes, Canada, Britain and New Zealand. They also discussed the pandemic and climate change.
Morrison said he did not expect a change in U.S.-direction on China under the Biden administration.
“I think in the United States, Australia has, and remains to have, a very, very strong and effective partner on these issues of Indo-Pacific security,” Morrison said.
The last U.S. president to visit Australia was Barack Obama.
Australia had an occasionally troubled relationship with President Donald Trump’s administration, with friction over an Obama-era deal for the U.S. to take Muslim refugees refused entry to Australia and differences over U.S. steel tariffs.
Australia’s then-Prime Minister John Howard was in Washington, D.C., marking the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty when terrorists struck the Pentagon and New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
Australia responded by committing combat troops to the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.