Australia says US under Trump must stay strong in Asia

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia said on Wednesday (Nov 09) it was crucial for Washington to stay focused on Asia if Mr Donald Trump wins the presidential election, with Canberra keen to see more US involvement in the region, not less.

Under President Barack Obama, the United States has pursued a foreign policy "pivot" towards the Asia-Pacific, including stationing marines in Australia, against the background of China's increasing assertiveness.

With tensions high over China's claims in the South China Sea and fears Mr Trump could be a negative for the region's trade prospects, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it was critical that the US remain fully engaged.

"Countries in our region are looking for more US leadership and not less in the Asia-Pacific," she told Sky News in the first Australian reaction to a potential Trump win over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

The billionaire populist has claimed a string of swing states for the Republicans and appears poised for a shock victory, jolting world markets and stunning Clinton supporters.

As Parliament sat on Wednesday, Ms Bishop and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull closely watched results flow through on their mobile phones.

Ms Bishop said Canberra wanted to continue working closely with any new administration and meet soon "to ensure it focuses on our region and the importance of US leadership and a US presence in the Asia-Pacific".

"We have particular areas of interest that must align and we will do what we can to ensure the new US administration is focused on our region because that is in our national interest," she said.

"The United States is our largest foreign direct investor, our second largest trading partner, so it's important for the Australian government to be ready to work with whoever becomes the next president of the United States and at this stage it would appear to be Donald Trump."

The bombastic Trump, who has little or no foreign policy experience, has threatened to tear up free trade deals and seal the US border.

He has also expressed a willingness to work with any country that shares his goals of stability, prosperity and security.

Anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson, whose One Nation party rode a populist wave in July to win four Senate seats in Australia, congratulated him on Twitter.

"Mr President my door will always be open. Congrats on behalf of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party of OZ," she said.

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