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Australia, Papua New Guinea finalizing new security pact

The Associated Press

Australia and Papua New Guinea are finalizing a new security treaty, the neighboring nations’ leaders said in January 2023, a move seen as a counter to the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) growing assertiveness in the region.

Details of the planned treaty weren’t released, but Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he expected negotiations to conclude in April 2023 and the treaty to be signed in June 2023.

Albanese said the treaty would be based on the deep trust between the nations, noting how the people of Papua New Guinea showed heroism and humanity during World War II.

“In the years ahead, Australia and Papua New Guinea have a chance to honor our shared history of service in the cause of peace — by adding to it,” Albanese said. “Deepening our defense ties and enhancing our national security cooperation and achieving a swift conclusion to negotiations on a bilateral security treaty.”

Albanese’s remarks were the first address to the Papua New Guinea Parliament by a foreign leader since the nation of 10 million gained independence in 1975.

“Australia and Papua New Guinea are the closest of neighbors; we are the greatest of friends,” he said.

Albanese said the treaty would work to address PNG’s needs, including strengthening the justice system.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape said he and Albanese would fine-tune the relationship, including “support for the law and justice sector, including police, military exchanges.” (Pictured: Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, left, welcomes Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Port Moresby in January 2023.)

Marape said the safety of both countries is intertwined. He said Australia is more than a bilateral partner because PNG was under Australia’s administration before gaining independence.

“One cannot talk about the Indo-Pacific without progressing the Papua New Guinea agenda because we are right in the heart and the center of this confluence, the Indo-Pacific confluence,” Marape said. “In order for PNG to participate in a safer Indo-Pacific region, Papua New Guinea herself must be stronger economically.”

Albanese said he wants to enhance bilateral trade “in everything from coffee and cocoa to fisheries and tourism,” and to work with PNG on projects including upgrading ports, roads and digital infrastructure.

In 2022, the PRC signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, raising alarm that it could lead to a military buildup in the South Pacific region.

Albanese said the treaty discussions centered on increased defense cooperation and joint training, and the potential for joint operations.

“At no instance was China or any other nation brought into the picture,” Marape said.

The tense relationship between Australia and the PRC has thawed somewhat since Albanese’s election victory in May 2022. In December 2022, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with then-Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing for a new round of long-suspended talks on foreign and strategic issues.



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