Australia, Papua New Guinea hope to conclude security treaty negotiations in April

Papua New Guinea’s leader says his country’s strength is inseparable from a secure Indo-Pacific region.
Harlyne Joku for BenarNews
2023.01.12
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
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Australia, Papua New Guinea hope to conclude security treaty negotiations in April Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) listens as Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape speaks at a press conference in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby on Jan. 12, 2022.
Harlyne Joku/BenarNews

The leaders of Papua New Guinea and Australia say they want negotiations for a wide-ranging security treaty between the two countries to be completed by the end of April.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape held talks in Port Moresby Thursday and both addressed the Pacific island country’s parliament. 

An Australian prime minister hadn’t visited PNG since 2018, partly due to disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. Albanese’s trip coincides with increased efforts by the United States and Australia to counter China’s burgeoning influence with Pacific island countries.

“Papua New Guinea’s and Australia’s defence and security is deeply connected. We share a mutual strategic interest in a safe, stable, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Marape and Albanese said in a joint statement.

The statement said the foreign ministers of the two countries had been entrusted with completing substantive negotiations for the security treaty by April 30.

Papua New Guinea, which gained independence from Australia in 1975, is the most populous Pacific island nation but also among the poorest. Stability for the country has remained elusive as it grapples with tribal violence and challenges such as corruption, lack of roads and basic healthcare.

China has become an important market for Papua New Guinea’s exports while also providing infrastructure and other assistance. It is building a hospital for PNG’s military and helped to bankroll the Pacific country’s hosting of the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2018.

Beijing signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands last year, a possible precursor to a Chinese military presence in the Pacific, alarming the United States and Australia. 

Marape and Albanese’s statement on the Australia-PNG security treaty said it would provide a legally binding framework for security cooperation and contribute to regional security and stability.

It would allow for deeper and more regular security-information sharing, facilitate joint security operations and improve the scope and depth of ongoing practical cooperation, according to the statement.

Marape, in his speech to PNG’s parliament, said the region’s security is intertwined with his country improving its economic strength.

“A better, stronger and safer PNG is a better, stronger and safer Australia and the Indo-Pacific region,” he said. “One cannot talk about the Indo Pacific without progressing the PNG agenda because we are right in the heart and the center of this confluence.” 

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.

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