U.S., Papua New Guinea sign security agreement. What does it mean?
President Joe Biden sent U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his stead, as he flew home to deal with the country’s debt ceiling issues. ‘Pacific governments are relishing their place in the sun’ as they undergo negotiations with several countries
A new U.S. security pact was signed with Papua New Guinea on Monday. The United States offered $45 million to heighten defenses within the country, develop disaster relief and work to combat climate change.
President Joe Biden sent U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his stead, as he flew home to deal with the country’s debt ceiling issues. Blinken negotiated and signed the agreement with Papua New Guinea’s prime minister, James Marape, per the British Broadcasting Corporation.
“The work that we’re doing together to try to shape the future could not be more important, could not be more timely,” Blinken told reporters, per The Associated Press. “We’re deeply invested in the Indo-Pacific because our planet’s future is being written here. Papua New Guinea is playing a critical role in shaping that future.”
The agreement includes a string of list items, including many that offer country development by expanding electricity, offering HIV/AIDS support, targeting organized crime, and combating climate change. Additionally, a bilateral agreement will give the U.S. Coast Guard access to maritime waters to combat illegal fishing.
Why is Papua New Guinea important?
Just north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is the largest Pacific Island nation — with a population of more than 10 million — and part of 15 island nations that together control 20% of the planet’s oceans, per BBC. Which makes it a valuable ally.
The island nation’s history includes some particularly fierce battles during World War II, which has followed into the nation’s more recent history of receiving aid from several different countries, including the United States and China.
“We don’t want our region to be an area of adversarial challenge between our development partners — rather, we want to find areas of collaboration, where we can have the best support to achieve our development agendas and our climate agenda,” the prime minister of the Cook Islands and leader of the Pacific Island’s Forum, Mark Brown, told BBC.
Combatting climate change, which threatens the life of the islands, is a big part of what the Pacific Island Nations are looking for, Brown told BBC.
“Pacific governments are relishing their place in the sun,” senior adviser for the Pacific Islands at the United States Institute of Peace, Gordon Peake, told BBC.
“‘Friends to all, enemies to none’ is the informal foreign policy mantra of most Pacific nations and they’re sticking to it, to great net effect.”
What are other nations’ negotiations?
China’s negotiations with Papua New Guinea are most concerning to the United States because of heightened political tensions and competition between the two larger nations.
With mounting influence in the Pacific, China warned the United States against playing “geopolitical games” there, reported AP.
On a friendlier note, Blinken met with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins there. He said that both countries’ goals are the same — “To make sure that it remains free, open, secure and prosperous,” per AP.
Hipkins differentiated his country’s efforts and clarified that it is “not interested in the militarization of the Pacific” but rather, “issues around climate change.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also visited the island nation to discuss cooperation, per AP.