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McCain Urges Australia To Stick By US Despite Trump Jitters

REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. Sen. John McCain urged Australia on Tuesday not to abandon its alliance with America despite jitters over President Donald Trump, saying the U.S. needs its allies more than ever to remind it of its principles.

The Republican senator, in Australia for talks on security in the Asia-Pacific region, acknowledged that America is going through "a rough period" and said he understands why the country's allies have questioned its commitments to truth over falsehood and freedom over oppression. But he urged Australia to stick with the U.S. "to encourage us to stay true to who we are at our best and remind us always just how much is at stake."

"I realize that some of President Trump's actions and statements have unsettled America's friends. They have unsettled many Americans as well," McCain said in a speech organized by the United States Studies Centre. "There is real debate under way now in my country about what kind of role America should play in the world and, frankly, I don't know how this debate will play out. But I do believe — and I don't think I'm exaggerating here — that the future of the world will turn to a large extent on how this debate in America is resolved. That's why I and others are fighting so hard to ensure that America stands by our allies and remains an active, principled leader in the world."

McCain emerged as one of Australia's staunchest advocates in the U.S. earlier this year following a spat between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. After reports emerged in February of a testy phone call between the two leaders over a refugee deal, McCain quickly reached out to Australia's ambassador to the U.S., and publicly praised Australia for its long history of military cooperation with the U.S.

Australia has fought alongside America in every major conflict since World War I, and is one of the largest contributors to the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq and Syria.

On Tuesday, McCain said that despite a widespread perception that Americans have turned isolationist and protectionist under Trump, a majority of its citizens believes globalization is a good thing. The senator criticized Trump and the president's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for their opposition to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. McCain urged Australia — which was unhappy with Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the agreement — to continue to pursue a free trade deal with other nations.

McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also said that while he and Trump differed on some things, they were aligned in their support for a boost in military funding. The senator said he plans to introduce a bill that would significantly increase funding for America's military. McCain said he also supports an initiative for the U.S. to bolster its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region amid growing concerns about North Korea's nuclear program.

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