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Monday, October 2, 2023

Papua New Guinea and US Sign Defence Pact in Light of China’s Augmenting Influence in Pacific 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the nation's capital, Port Moresby

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Hrishita Chatterjee
Hrishita Chatterjee
Covering culture and trending topics

UNITED STATES: In light of reports that China is boosting its impact in the Pacific, the United States and Papua New Guinea have introduced a bilateral defence agreement. A meeting with 14 Pacific Island leaders was held on Monday after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the nation’s capital, Port Moresby. 

Blinken mentioned, during the ceremony, “The defence cooperation was drafted by the United States and Papua New Guinea as equals and sovereign partners.” 

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The new deal would offer $45 million (£36 million) to aid boost security cooperation, including defence force protection equipment for Papua New Guinea, as well as assistance in reducing the consequences of the climate crisis, transnational crime, and HIV/Aids.

Win Bakri Daki, the PNG defence minister, and Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, signed the agreement.

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Last week’s leakage of a draught copy of the defence cooperation agreement prompted worry in Papua New Guinea over the level of American military participation in the country.

Students at numerous institutions have protested the agreement’s signing, fearing it will offend China. Reacting to criticism, Papua New Guinea’s PM, James Marape said, “So this has nothing to do with geopolitics; this cooperation will strengthen our defence and help build our capacity.”

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Additionally, the United States and Papua New Guinea decided to sign a shiprider agreement. It lays the groundwork for Pacific island country personnel to work on US coast guard and naval boats, and vice versa, in addressing economic and security deficiencies such as illegal fishing.

According to some analysts and institutions like the PNG Trade Union Congress, the national defence partnership between the US and Papua New Guinea is too open and accepting of Washington’s interests. 

The invitation to visit Washington, DC, in the fall was delivered to Pacific leaders by Blinken, who decided to travel to Port Moresby in the president’s place. In an effort to counter Beijing’s influence in the region, US President Biden held a meeting of Pacific island leaders in September of last year in Washington. 

He asserted that the agreement would be open to the public, clarify things for the military forces of the two nations to train together, and boost Papua New Guinea’s ability to respond to natural disasters.

So over the years, as China has started working to diplomatically isolate Taiwan and set up its own set of international institutions, it has emerged as a significant trade, infrastructure, and aid partner for developing Pacific island nations. 

The US and its allies, including Australia, were dismayed when China last year signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands. In 2019, Taiwan’s diplomatic recognition of Beijing was transferred to the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.

Also Read: India, Japan, Australia and the US Take a Subtle Jab at China


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