Australia key to core of US' Asia-Pacific pivot, says Biden

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Australia remains the key to the core of Washington's Asia-Pacific pivot.

US Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday, July 17, unveiled a series of agreements between the US and Australia to create an "unprecedented" worldwide research database of cancer patients as he kicked off a 3-day visit in Melbourne.

Biden did not explicitly reference the South China Sea dispute, but raised his hopes to strengthen alliances and increase co-operation with Asian nations including the Philippines, Japan and Korea, as well as mentioning that he had discussed American involvement in the Pacific with Chinese president Xi Jinping, making it clear that "we are a Pacific nation".

"The partnership between Australia and America is at the core of our vision for the region's future", Biden told the audience which included three former Australian prime ministers Tony Abbott, John Howard and Bob Hawke.

Mr Biden was guest of honour at a Government House dinner in Melbourne on Sunday night hosted by Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau.

But Biden said the countries were seeking change, so Australians should not worry about the USA election.

Biden will attend a ceremony at the MCG before settling in to watch his first game of AFL.

"It's important we stand together", he added.

Australia has been a staunch ally of the United States in Iraq and in the fight against Daesh (the so-called IS). "And that is vital because our presence in the essential to maintaining peace and stability, without which the economic growth and prosperity I believe would falter", Biden told a packed hall.

He said it was a defense attaché who informed him of the test landings a day before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration junked China's "9-dash line" as illegal and said it was no basis for its claims to most of the South China Sea.

Biden said bringing his granddaughters on the trip Down Under was not initially part of the plan — until he remembered that one of the teens had long dreamed of visiting Australia.

"She said to me four years ago when she was 14, 'You know, Pop, going to Australia's on my bucket list.' Fourteen years old — bucket list?"

Of the latest violence, Biden said: "My heart goes out ... to those families". "So I said, 'Honey, I'm going to Australia, want to come?' She said, 'Yes!'"

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  • Joey Payne