Washington and Port Moresby signed a defense agreement, giving US forces access to some of Papua New Guinea’s airports and ports.
“We are moving from a basic relationship to a concrete relationship with the US. The two countries have concluded a defense cooperation agreement,” Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape said on May 22 at a press conference in Hanoi, capital of Port Moresby.
The agreement was signed by Win Bakri Daki, Minister of Defense of Papua New Guinea, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the same day. “We are working together to shape the future. We look forward to taking our partnership to the next level,” said Blinken.
Under the agreement, the US and Papua New Guinea are allowed to send personnel aboard each other’s ships, share technical expertise and “better coordinate joint patrols at sea”. In addition, US forces are permitted access to some airports and seaports in Papua New Guinea.
The US Coast Guard vessel USCGC Oliver Henry docked in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in August 2022. Photo: USCG
Earlier, the US State Department said the new deal will provide Papua New Guinea with $45 million to improve security cooperation, including protective gear for Papua New Guinea’s defense forces to minimize the impact of climate change, combat cross-border crime and HIV/AIDS.
A copy of the deal leaked last week said US troops and contract military personnel have legal immunity in Papua New Guinea, allowing US aircraft, vehicles and vessels to move on behalf of the country. Papua New Guinea.
However, Prime Minister Marape on May 22 denied that US troops would be exempt from legal immunity and stated that Papua New Guinea would not change any provision of this country’s constitution or laws in cooperation with the US.
According to Prime Minister Marape, Papua New Guinea faces significant security challenges, so “it is necessary to strengthen and protect the country’s borders, as well as guarantee the safety of the people”.
Mr. Marape said the defense cooperation agreement with the US is not related to geopolitics, but “helps strengthen Papua New Guinea’s defense and develop our capability”.
Papua New Guinea covers an area of over 460,000 square kilometers, has a population of nearly 9 million and is the most populous island nation in the Pacific. With its location in the north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is considered a strategic location. This island nation was once the scene of fierce battles during World War II.
The United States and Papua New Guinea signed a defense cooperation agreement after the neighboring island nation of the Solomon Islands signed a security treaty with China last year, a move that has alarmed the United States and Australia. The US then increased its focus on the region, opening embassies in the Solomon Islands and Tonga and encouraging more business investment there.
Location of Papua New Guinea (orange). Graphics: Britannica
Nguyen Tien (according to AFP, Guardian)