‘I love Australia’: Trump and Turnbull meet for the first time

US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sit before a meeting onboard the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Photo: AFP

Donald Trump called his relationship with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull “fantastic” following a meeting in New York.

It is their first encounter since an acrimonious phone call in February.

“We get along great. We have a fantastic relationship, I love Australia, I always have,” the AFP quoted Mr Trump as saying.

Protesters also gathered in Mr Trump’s home city, the first time he has returned there since his inauguration.

Mr Trump said the two leaders had “reaffirmed ties” between their two countries, and discussed economic, trade, and national security co-operation, as well as migration issues.

They met on the USS Intrepid, a WWII-era aircraft carrier that was involved in the war against Japan in the Pacific.

Relations between the two leaders were strained over Mr Trump’s reluctance to honour a deal to accept up to 1200 refugees from Australian detention camps.

Mr Trump had reportedly said his February call on the issue was his “worst” that day, and had previously tweeted that the refugee resettlement agreement was a “dumb deal”.

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But the US later said it would honour the agreement made by the Obama administration.

As he met Mr Turnbull, Mr Trump said the refugee bill “has been worked out for a long time”, and said media coverage of the phone call was “a little bit of fake news, as the expression goes”.

“We got a little testy, but that’s OK,” he later added.

He also said he would visit Australia, which he called “one of the most beautiful places on earth”, but did not set a date.

Australia is one of the United States’ staunchest allies and troops from the two countries have fought together in all recent major conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speaking at the event on board the USS Intrepid, Mr Turnbull said the “stability and prosperity of our region over so many decades has been secured – and is secured today – by the United States”, a commitment he said was renewed by President Trump.

It is thought the two leaders may have discussed North Korea as part of their talks on national security.

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Tensions have been rising around the Korean peninsula, with repeated threats from North Korea and the presence of a group of US warships and a submarine.

Observers also said Australia was also concerned about how the Trump administration’s America-first trade policy might affect economic relations.

In one of his first actions after taking office, Mr Trump pulled his country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, a 12-nation trade agreement that would have included the US, Australia and much of the Asia-Pacific.