Trump, Morrison to talk Indo-Pacific, Iran

US President Donald Trump is set to welcome Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the White House.
US President Donald Trump is set to welcome Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the White House.

Australia's role in helping America combat Chinese expansion in the Indo-Pacific and Iranian aggression in the Middle East will be high on the agenda when US President Donald Trump hosts Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the White House.

A senior Trump administration official briefed reporters on Thursday ahead of the prime minister's visit.

Mr Morrison and wife Jenny will spend most of Friday (Saturday AEST) at the White House, with the day of meetings and a joint press conference ending with an opulent outdoor state dinner in the Rose Garden.

The visit will include the signing of a memorandum of understanding involving Australia assisting the US to return to the moon and a joint plan on rare earths and critical minerals.

"We are going to have some announcements on a MOU between NASA and the Australian Space Agency on returning to the moon by 2024 and to explore new areas of mutual interest in things like automation and robotics," the official said.

A plan will also be announced on improving the "security and supply of rare earths in a way that is mutually beneficial to both countries".

The official described Australia as "an absolutely essential partner" in Mr Trump's "free and open Indo-Pacific vision".

"This visit is designed to highlight some of that co-operation," the official said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will return to Washington DC after a emergency trip to the Middle East following the recent missile attack on a Saudi Arabian oil facility.

Mr Pompeo will host a lunch with Vice President Mike Pence for Mr Morrison on Friday at the White House.

"Australia has been a tremendous partner for us as it relates to Iran's nuclear program and toward some of the challenges we face with Iran," the official said.

"They have recently announced they will be joining patrols with the US in the Strait of Hormuz to ensure freedom of navigation in the strait."

The Morrisons will arrive at the White House's South Lawn at 9am Washington DC time (11pm Friday AEST).

There will be a 30 minute arrival ceremony.

Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will then take the Morrisons to a guestbook signing and the couples will exchange gifts.

The four will then head to the Oval Office for a meeting before a series of bilateral meetings between the president, prime minister and their staff.

The 30-minute joint press conference with Mr Trump and Mr Morrison in the East Room is scheduled for 11.45am (1.45am Saturday AEST).

The White House state dinner, expected to be attended by golfing great Greg Norman and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is set to begin at 8.15pm (10.15 Saturday AEST).

John Howard, in 2006, was the last Australian prime minister feted at a White House State dinner.

Mr Trump's first and only other state visit went to French President Emmanuel Macron.

Australian Associated Press