The governments of the United States and Papua New Guinea have inked a new bilateral defence cooperation deal as China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific area grows, CNN has reported.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister James Marape and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken inked the treaty and a marine security accord on Monday during Blinken’s visit to the capital Port Moresby.
Secretary of the State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter, “Met PNG Prime Minister Marape at the U.S.-Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Port Moresby. We covered many topics, including the successful conclusion of the new Defense Cooperation Agreement. Our two countries are promoting peace, security, and prosperity in the Pacific region.”
Pact with US an opportunity to enhance infrastructure and capabilities: Papua New Guinea
PNG characterized its deal with the US in a statement issued on Saturday as an opportunity to enhance its infrastructure and capabilities for national defence at a time of escalating global security concerns.
“Papua New Guinea does not have enemies but it pays to be prepared. The territorial dispute is (imminent), as in the case of Ukraine-Russia,” read the statement. This statement was made following the announcement of the treaty, which has stirred controversy in the Pacific Island nation and comes as Washington and China vie for influence in the region.
Washington and its allies are attempting to discourage Pacific island governments from establishing security relations with China, a growing concern amid mounting tensions over Taiwan, which Beijing regards as its own. Any effort by the self-governing island to secede will result in military force, according to China.
“This agreement is not about geopolitics but rather recognizes the country’s need to build its defence capabilities because border disputes are inevitable in the future,” it added.
On Monday, the US State Department issued a statement that read, “On May 22, Secretary Blinken will sign a Defense Cooperation Agreement, which, when it enters into force, will serve as a foundational framework upon which our two countries can enhance security cooperation and further strengthen our bilateral relationship, improve the capacity of the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF), and increase stability and security in the region. The United States expects to publish the text of the Defense Cooperation Agreement after entry into force, consistent with U.S. law.”
US-Papua New Guinea armies already have cooperative security partnership: US State Department
As per the State Department, the US and PNG armies already have a cooperative security assistance partnership centred primarily on joint humanitarian exercises and the training of PNG military personnel.
“On May 19, 2023, the U.S. Department of Defence provided the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) with USD 5.4 million worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) funded by the Department of State’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. The PPE includes ballistic helmets, flak vests with armour plates, elbow pads, knee pads, and eye protection, and will be provided to PNGDF members deployed to the border and domestically for security operations,” a US State Department statement read.
“The U.S. Department of Defense also intends to provide PNGDF USD 7 million in support to procure dress uniforms and name tags for the upcoming PNG 50th Independence Celebrations in 2025. This assistance is a step toward deepening the defence relationship between our countries while also demonstrating our commitment, dedication, and investment in the future of PNG,” it went on to say.
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