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Why High-Ranking U.S. Officials Are In Sydney To Meet With Scott Morrison

China, North Korea and Iran are on the agenda as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and key Australian officials meet in Sydney at AUSMIN.

Pompeo touched down on Saturday, along with newly appointed US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, ahead of Sunday's annual Australia-United States ministerial meeting.

The senior members of the Trump administration will spend the day meeting with Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in Sydney following a dinner with Morrison at Kirribilli House on Saturday night.

Morrison has a close relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, and is due to attend a state dinner at the White House next month.

Renewed tensions in the Middle East as Iran flexes its military muscle is expected to be a hot topic during the discussions.

Ahead of the important talks, cabinet minister Mathias Cormann insisted "no decision" has been made as to whether Australia will join a U.S.-led coalition aimed at protecting shipping in the Persian Gulf from Iranian military forces.

Pompeo arrived in Sydney on Saturday evening. Photo: Getty Images.

Senator Payne says Australia always considers requests from its allies on their merits, and most importantly, whether they are in the interests of Australia in preserving national security.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese -- who will also meet Pompeo and Esper on Sunday and Monday respectively following the ministerial talks -- has called for a peaceful approach to Iran.

READ MORE: Christopher Pyne: What War With Iran Could Mean For The World

The Middle East is just one area of concern. The other is the growing dominance of China in the Pacific region.

Esper has accused China and Russia of seeking to displace the U.S. and "shift the balance of power in their favour".

READ MORE: What The South China Sea Showdown Means For Australia

He believes a strong network of like-minded nations that are willing and able to fight together is an advantage over their adversaries.

The AUSMIN meeting comes as the U.S. scrapped a nuclear arms pact with Russia on Friday.

Both countries have blamed each other for violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty that has stood since 1988.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, expressed regret at the ending of a treaty.

Morrison will go to The White House for a state dinner. Photo: Getty Images.

"The Secretary-General emphasises the need to avoid destabilising developments and to urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control," Dujarric said in a statement on Saturday.

Australian Greens senator Jordan Steele-John said its becoming increasingly clear that the US and Russia are intent on leading the world into a "new nuclear arms race".

Closer to home, North Korea confirmed it had made further tests of a new multiple rocket launcher system that could have the capability to strike South Korea and US military bases there.

At the same time, there is an escalating trade war between the US and China while the Asian giant is also in a row with its autonomous territory Hong Kong, where fears are growing military action will be taken to quell protests.

Pompeo will address a Centre for Independent Studies forum with Senator Payne on Sunday afternoon.

He will head to Micronesia on Monday.