Pence fits in family time Down Under

US Vice-president Mike Pence says the Trump administration would honour a controversial refugee deal with Australia in a joint press conference with the country's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Mike Pence pats a kangaroo at Sydney's Taronga Zoo during a visit with his wife Karen and two daughters yesterday.
Mr Mike Pence pats a kangaroo at Sydney's Taronga Zoo during a visit with his wife Karen and two daughters yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • United States Vice-President Mike Pence crouched down in the shade of a eucalyptus tree yesterday at Sydney's Taronga Zoo, scratching Penny, a red kangaroo, behind the ears before it lazily rolled onto its back.

"That's my usual position on a Sunday afternoon," Mr Pence said as a bank of cameras clicked, capturing yet another picture-perfect moment for his family in Australia.

Mr Pence, his wife Karen, and their two adult daughters, Charlotte and Audrey, saw some of the sights of Sydney, investing time in soft diplomacy on the last leg of a 10-day Asia tour that has been rich with symbolism about shoring up American economic ties and security cooperation.

Mrs Pence - who earlier charmed a meet-and-greet with embassy families with her pronunciation of "G'day" - held out a handful of chicory to Widji, an emu who boldly pecked at the bunch. The emu declined to indulge Ms Audrey Pence, 22, who wanted to take a selfie, but Penny the kangaroo obliged.

Mr Pence is the first senior member of President Donald Trump's administration to travel to Australia.

The visit took on new emphasis after an acrimonious phone call early in Mr Trump's term with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about refugees.

Mr Pence sought to put any sense of lingering tension to rest during his visit, which included meetings with Mr Turnbull and other government officials at Admiralty House, an official residence with spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House.

At the zoo, Mr Pence and his family posed with Bai'yali, a fluffy eared koala with beady red eyes, but did not cuddle the marsupial.

The Pences also got a close look at an owl but it seemed more interested in the clicking cameras than them.

"He's not really sure about the press," Mr Pence quipped.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline 'Pence fits in family time Down Under'. Print Edition | Subscribe