SYDNEY, May 23 – The Australian government on Tuesday welcomed a defence cooperation agreement between its closest neighbour Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the U.S. aimed at bolstering regional security amid China’s plans to increase influence in the Pacific.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and PNG Prime Minister James Marape on Monday signed the defence pact in the Pacific nation’s capital of Port Moresby, which would make it easier for the U.S. military to train PNG’s armed forces.
“It’s really good that we are seeing America becoming more and more engaged in the Pacific region and specifically with Papua New Guinea,” Defence Minister Richard Marles told Sky News. “A greater American involvement the region and in its relationship with PNG is good news for us.”
The United States and ally Australia for decades have seen the Pacific as their sphere of influence, and are seeking to deter the island nations from forming security ties with China, after Beijing signed a security pact with Solomon Islands last year.
Blinken said the deal with PNG was not about any other country while Marape flagged the accord updated an existing U.S. military relationship and “has nothing to do with China”.