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Australian prime minister to discuss security in first trip to Washington as leader

AP, Staff Report

Australia’s prime minister said Saturday he will discuss with President Barack Obama regional security and combating the Islamic State group when he visits Washington this month.

Malcolm Turnbull will make his first visit to the United States as prime minister on Jan. 18 and 19.

“The alliance with the United States is fundamental to Australia’s national security,” his office said in a statement.

Besides Obama, Turnbull plans to meet with senior administration officials and congressional leaders. He will underline “Australia’s enduring commitment to the alliance and in particular Australia’s ongoing commitment to an effective response to regional and global challenges, including combating ISIL in Iraq and Syria,” the statement added. ISIL is another name for the Islamic State group.

Discussions will also focus on advancing the United States and Australia’s shared vision for the Asia-Pacific region, including the ratification and implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

These discussions will also likely include China’s recent moves in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing has created several artificial islands. The large-scale land reclamation projects have stoked concern in Washington and Canberra that they could be used for military purposes.

While in Washington, Turnbull will deliver a security speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies and promote Australia as a trade and investment destination to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Turnbull replaced Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September in a surprise leadership ballot of lawmakers in the ruling conservative party.

Australia has six jet fighters based in Dubai flying missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria as well as soldiers engaged in noncombat roles in Baghdad.