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Australia defends its US ambassador, Kevin Rudd, after Trump attack

Published 03/20/2024, 12:33 AM
Updated 03/20/2024, 12:38 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ambassador of Australia to the U.S. Kevin Rudd attends the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2024. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's government backed its ambassador to Washington, the former prime minister Kevin Rudd, after U.S. presidential contender Donald Trump called the key diplomat "a little bit nasty" in a broadcast interview.

Australia counts the U.S. as a major strategic ally and the two are forging closer defence ties under the AUKUS pact to build nuclear submarines in Australia.

Trump described Rudd as "a little bit nasty" in an interview with former British politician Nigel Farage on British broadcaster GB News.

"If he's at all hostile, he will not be there long," Trump added.

Rudd, a former China scholar who was chief executive at U.S. think tank the Asia Society before becoming ambassador, has previously criticised Trump, on China policy, among other issues.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Penny Wong told reporters Rudd would stay as ambassador even if Trump were elected president.

"Mr Rudd is a very effective ambassador," she said in Canberra, the capital. "He is recognised across this parliament as doing an excellent job in advancing Australia's interests in the United States."

She pointed to Rudd's work on the AUKUS pact, adding that he had engaged with members of the U.S. Congress on both sides of politics.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ambassador of Australia to the U.S. Kevin Rudd attends the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2024. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File photo

The Trump comments sparked an attack on Rudd by the opposition, which asked in parliament if his role would be re-assessed.

In reply, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had never before seen an attempt to politicise Australia's representative overseas, adding that the leader of the opposition had welcomed Rudd's appointment at the time it was made.

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