Biden meets Australia prime minister, talks up military ties

SYDNEY (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden met with Australia’s prime minister and other leaders on Tuesday, amid America’s continued push to boost its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Biden, who is in Australia as part of a tour of the Pacific, also met with troops aboard an Australian navy ship, where he shook hands with veterans of Middle East conflicts and thanked Australia for being a close military ally.

Biden’s visit comes five years after President Barack Obama announced that U.S. Marines would begin rotating through the Australian port city of Darwin as part of the U.S. military pivot to Asia.

“Thank you for having America’s back and we will always have your back,” Biden told the troops gathered on the flight deck of the HMAS Adelaide. “We are a Pacific power, we are here to stay, and thank God we have you to lead us and to be with us.”

Later, Biden met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other government leaders, with Turnbull praising the vice president for his push to accelerate research efforts toward a cure for cancer. Earlier this week, Biden announced that the U.S. and Australia would share the genetic information of around 60,000 cancer patients to help researchers better understand what causes particular cancers.

Biden has brought along three of his granddaughters on his trip Down Under, which he said 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?” Biden said during his meeting with Turnbull. “So I said, ‘Honey, I’m going to Australia, want to come?’ She said, ‘Yes!'”

Biden flies to New Zealand on Wednesday.