Papua New Guinea, UK solidify defense relationship
Papua New Guinea and the United Kingdom renewed their defense relationship in late April 2023 by signing a broad security agreement.
The status of forces agreement — a pact generally used by countries to establish rules under which foreign military personnel operate in a country — was signed in Port Moresby by the nations’ foreign ministers and comes as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) attempts to increase influence in the region.
Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko said the agreement is broad in nature and the U.K.’s military is already training with the Pacific country’s defense forces.
“It is about strengthening and enhancing our relationship when it comes to defense in our country,” he said. “This will allow us to have an easier relationship when dealing with defense related matters, training and many other things.”
Papua New Guinea signed a broad security and defense agreement with Australia earlier in 2023 and is negotiating a defense cooperation agreement with the United States. Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. are parties to a security pact known as AUKUS. They have agreed to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, a move which is widely understood to be aimed at containing Beijing.
In recent decades, the PRC has been a source of trade, infrastructure and aid for Pacific Island Countries (PIC) as it seeks to diplomatically isolate Taiwan and gain allies in international organizations.
PICs hope to gain from renewed U.S. interest in the region. However, they increasingly seek a balance as Washington and Beijing vie for influence.
U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the agreement with Papua New Guinea reflects mutual security interests. “The security of friends is our security,” he said. “The world is increasingly a small place and the risk to that security can come from anyone or a number of different factors and many things we have not even thought about yet.”
Tkatchenko said the agreement was not directly in response to the PRC, but rather to multiple security challenges in the region from climate change to biosecurity and defense.
“I just want to make very clear that PNG stands fast with its traditional partners in the region: Australia, New Zealand, USA and Indonesia. They are traditional partners when it comes to security for our region,” he said.
Papua New Guinea also signed a status of forces agreement with France in November 2022. Tkatchenko said he expects four visits in the next 12 months from French warships.
IMAGE CREDIT: I-STOCK IMAGES