Washington signs security agreement with Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea signed a security deal with Washington on Monday that gives the US military access to ports and air bases in the Pacific country, where the United States seeks to counter China’s influence.

James Marape, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, announced ahead of the Pacific Ocean Summit with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “We are moving from a general relationship … to a specific relationship with the United States. A defense cooperation.” The deal is done.” Island Summit.

“We work together to shape the future,” said Mr. Blinken.

The agreement was signed by the US head of diplomacy and Defense Minister of Papua New Guinea, Win Bakri Daki, ahead of the opening of the meeting of the United States-Pacific Islands Forum, which brought together the leaders of 14 South Pacific island states. Port Moresby.

“The agreement will enhance security cooperation and further strengthen our bilateral relationship (…) and enhance stability and security in the region,” the US State Department said on Monday, hours before the document was signed.

It would give the United States access to Papua New Guinea’s waters near the sea lanes of Australia and Japan in exchange for access to US surveillance satellites, Papua’s prime minister defended Thursday.

Mr Blinken said the two countries could embark on each other’s ships, share expertise and “better patrol” the seas together.

– “built-in” China –

While the treaty is presented as an agreement aimed at protecting the country’s borders, China’s place in the Pacific is at the heart of US commitment in the region, experts underline.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (3rd D) and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape (L) during a bilateral meeting, ahead of the United States-Islands Forum of the Pacific (- ADEK Berry) in Port Moresby on May 22, 2023

“Even though China is not mentioned anywhere in the document, it is implicit in deepening ties between the United States and Papua New Guinea”, analyzes Gordon Peake at the Center for East Asia. United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

Mr Marape, however, clarified that the agreement would not prevent him from forging similar alliances with other countries, including China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning responded on Monday by saying that Beijing would not oppose “normal exchanges” between nations, but use “cooperation” as a pretext to engage in geopolitical games in the Pacific. Should be careful doing.

Family photo of participants at the United States-Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, May 22, 2023 (Government of Papua New Guinea - Roan Paul)
Family photo of participants at the United States-Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, May 22, 2023 (Government of Papua New Guinea – Roan Paul)

The US-Papua deal has sparked protests from students at several universities, who fear the country is giving the US military too much autonomy at some of the country’s main entry points, according to the Post Courier, Papua New Guinea’s largest newspaper. Is.

In Port Moresby, dozens of students gathered at the University of Papua New Guinea in the evening, some setting tires on fire.

According to a private security guard at the university, vehicles on their way were towed.

In addition to the agreement, the United States pledged $45 million in funding to fight organized crime, climate change and the AIDS virus, as well as protective equipment for its military, according to the US State Department.

Joe Biden, whose uncle died in Papua New Guinea during World War II, was originally set to become the first US president to visit the South Pacific country on Monday.

He had to cancel his trip because of negotiations on the US public debt and was replaced by Mr. Blinken.

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