Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have signed a bilateral security agreement that will provide PNG with more assistance for its police and support for its legal system. The agreement was signed in Canberra by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and PNG’s James Marape. This deal underlines the close ties between the two countries.
Marape stated that the deal with Australia showed the two countries were “brother and sister nations”. He noted that PNG’s judiciary, public service, and borders were established by Australia before PNG became an independent nation 48 years ago. The agreement is comprehensive and historic, making it easier for Australia to help PNG address its internal security needs.
The agreement says that enhancing PNG’s capabilities contributes to “Pacific-led regional security and stability”, and that Australia and PNG will prioritize consultations with each other on PNG’s need for security-related equipment, infrastructure, and training.
The security agreement includes more training for PNG’s police, resources for the country’s judges, and measures to tackle gender-based violence. It also covers climate change, cyber security, and disaster relief.
PNG is the largest and most populous state in Melanesia, less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Australia’s northernmost border. It has vast deposits of gas, gold, and minerals, and is strategically positioned along some of the Pacific region’s busiest shipping lanes.
The agreement comes after PNG signed a defense deal with the United States in May to upgrade its military bases. Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said that a meeting of South Pacific defense ministers, including PNG, had agreed to consider forming a Pacific Response Group to provide assistance in emergencies.
The agreement comes amid growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing in the Asia Pacific. China has sought to boost its security presence in the Pacific Islands, raising concerns in the US and Australia. Australia argues that security should be provided by Pacific countries.
Marape stressed that PNG was eager to deal with Canberra and Washington but did not want to provoke Beijing. “Our major foreign policy remains friends to all and enemies to none,” Marape said on Thursday. “It’s never at the expense of relationships elsewhere.”
China has been on its own PNG charm offensive, pouring money into trade, property, and infrastructure projects and deepening economic ties. The backlash delayed the Australia agreement, which the two leaders had expected to sign in June.
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