May 5 (UPI) — It was smooth sailing for President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aboard the USS Intrepid on Thursday night, months after a reportedly rocky start to their relationship.
Trump downplayed a contentious phone conversation in January and declared a “fantastic” relationship with Turnbull. “We get along great,” Trump said. “I love Australia, I always have.”
Trump even praised Australia’s universal health care system, hours after House Republicans passed a bill aimed at repealing much of the Affordable Care Act. “You have better health care than we do,” he said to Turnbull.
Trump said the U.S. and Australia are linked by “iron bonds” forged by the Battle of the Coral Sea in World War II and “sealed with the blood of our fathers and grandfathers” who lost their lives halting the Japanese advance in the Pacific.
Trump spoke at a gala dinner aboard the USS Intrepid in New York City commemorating the 75th anniversary of that battle.
Trump dismissed “exaggerated” reports about his January phone conversation with Turnbull that reportedly ended in disagreement.
“We had a great telephone call,” Trump said Thursday. “That was a big exaggeration. We’re not babies. That was a little bit of fake news.”
Turnbull agreed: “That’s exactly right.”
But sources told The Washington Post their conversation on Jan. 28 included a heated exchange about an existing refugee agreement. In the deal made under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. agreed to take in 1,250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru in Papua New Guinea.
After their phone conversation, Trump said on Twitter the deal was “dumb.” The White House later agreed to honor the agreement and the two leaders have worked to move beyond the phone call.
“We can put the refugee deal behind you and move on,” Turnbull said to Trump Thursday.
“It’s all worked out,” Trump said. “It’s been worked out for a long time.”