US, Papua New Guinea to sign new defense cooperation accords
The new defense agreements between Papua New Guinea and the US allow US troops unrestricted access to ports and airports in the country.
As Washington seeks to increase its influence in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, James Marape, announced that the country will sign a new security pact with the US, allowing its troops access to all the nation's ports and airports.
According to Marape, after securing parliamentary approval, the two countries will sign two agreements that will be focused on defense cooperation and maritime surveillance.
Marape argued, "We are elevating to a specific defense cooperation agreement, something that is falling short of a treaty," adding, "We are moving ahead, we are signing with the best military on the face of planet Earth."
The US, in the newly drafted agreements, will have unrestricted access to Papua New Guinea's water, thus securing vital movement in waters near sea routes to Australia and Japan. In return, Marape claimed Papua New Guinea will obtain access to US satellite surveillance.
"It now gives us an opportune time to focus not just on maritime access but satellite access on... illegal activities on the high sea," Marape said.
A leaked draft version of the defense cooperation agreement noted that US forces would have extended autonomy at some of the country's primary entry points. However, Marape stated that any access to the country would have to be approved by his government.
"The ports, the infrastructure... will not in any way stand to be exclusively used by the military," he said before adding that "they would always be asking our defense to have access to our facilities."
While the US aimed to strengthen its influence in the Pacific in the face of China, Marape announced that despite the new pact with Washington, the country would not be prevented from negotiating similar agreements with various nations, including China.
Moreover, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to Marape, will attend the summit of Pacific leaders, on Monday, in Port Moresby after US President Joe Biden canceled his previously-expected trip due to the ongoing debt ceiling crisis in Washington.
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