US establish military footprint in Papua New Guinea as critics say the latter has signed their sovereignty away

US Marines
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Papua New Guinea (PNG) has signed away its sovereignty to the US military, critics say. As the US build-up in the Asia-Pacific continues, PNG’s government has agreed to let American military bases be built in its territory.

The US military will be able to develop and operate out of bases in Papua New Guinea, according to a landmark security pact. This will form part of the US’s anti-China strategy in the region.

The full text of the deal was tabled in Papua New Guinea’s parliament on Wednesday 14 July. It sheds light on details that have been closely guarded since the pact was signed in May 2013

The United States will be able to station troops and vessels in PNG, at six key ports and airports. These include Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island and facilities in the capital Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea ports

In turn, this means the US has access to a deep-water port in a vital region. Agence-France Presse (AFP) reported:

Washington would have “unimpeded access” to the sites to “pre-position equipment, supplies and materiel”, and have “exclusive use” of some zones, where development and “construction activities” could be carried out.

The agreement opens the door to Washington establishing a new military footprint. This is a further challenge to China, which has been pursuing its own regional ambitions.

Read on...

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Prime Minister James Marape was forced to defend the deal to rival in parliament:

We have allowed our military to be eroded in the last 48 years.

And added:

Sovereignty is defined by the robustness and strength of your military.

John Blaxland, professor of international security and intelligence at the Australian National University told Al Jazeera:

The silver lining is that Papua New Guinea islands are getting more investment and high level visits than they’ve seen in generations.

Chinese activity

The Chinese government have also been working to strike up deals in the Pacific, including PNG.  However, Australia and the US beat them to the punch, signing a deal to jointly develop the facility in 2018.

Chinese firms have also snapped up mines and ports across the Pacific. And, last year, China signed a secretive security pact with the nearby Solomon Islands that could allow troops to deploy.

The world’s two biggest economies have regional and global ambitions. To make matters worse, rhetoric focusing on Taiwan has increased since Russia invaded Ukraine. Indeed, the people of PNG have found themselves trapped between two superpowers.

Additional reporting by Agence-France Presse.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/LCpl Glenna D. Dixon, cropped to 1910 x 1000.

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