Papua New Guinea, an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, has shown its interest in establishing a security agreement with Australia in the backdrop of concerns over the Chinese “security deals” with the Solomon Islands in April, media reports said.
Papua New Guinea has new fears over China’s growing clout in the Solomon Islands, where China is accused of stationing its military warships and deploying troops.
This news is widely welcomed by analysts who are wary of rising Chinese influence in the Pacific. However, one of the important pillars of Australia being able to strategize this deal with Papua New Guinea is Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s tireless diplomacy with Pacific Island capitals, reported Asia Times.
After taking over the position of Foreign Minister from Marise Payne three months ago, Wong has done heavy trotting in the Pacific Island countries which now seems to have borne fruit. She made four separate trips to the Pacific; to Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.
Visits also involved engaging with Pacific leaders during July’s Pacific Islands Forum Summit. These efforts appear to be paying off. Apart from the news of Papua New Guinea showing interest in the security pact with Australia, the island nation of Timor-Leste has also just signed a defence cooperation agreement.
The timing of the Papua New Guinea security deal with Australia is very interesting. Foreign minister of the Islands Justin Tkatchenko spoke about the deal amid the agreement between the Solomon Islands and China which is feared to be a security serious concern in the Pacific islands.
These security concerns are quite evident as the deal which has been in the works since 2019 has now been spurred by the recent security. The progress of the 2019 deal, which included a commitment to “develop a bilateral security treaty to further promote our shared security interests” was halted.
However, the Papua New Guinea FM Tkatchenko noted the proposed new agreement will “fill in the loopholes” caused by the current security situation in the region and complement the regional security agreement the two countries already have in place.
The pact will further be expanded to include New Zealand and the US, due to the importance of regional security.
It is also worth noting that the deal is not something which cropped up out of nowhere. The Australian Defense Force has been the island nation’s military’s primary partner since the islands established independence in 1975.
Australia also regularly provides humanitarian assistance after natural disasters in the Islands. In June, Australian forces and aircraft were also deployed to provide security and assist during elections in the Islands, as per Asia Times.
The announcement of the security pact sends a strong signal that Pacific states are making choices about where they stand in the geopolitical contest between the US and China. The Solomon Islands security treaty with China showed that the contest has well and truly arrived in Australia’s backyard. (ANI)