Pacific nations Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea (PNG) are delaying the finalisation of their security pacts with Australia due to fears the deal would encroach on their sovereignty, the Pacific nations have said.
"It is at the National Security Council at the moment, just going through the text, and it’ll go towards the Council of Ministers. And it will be presented for ratification before the end of this year in Parliament," he said.
Kalsakau added that the deal, if not ratified, would give the Australian military too much power.
"We must remove the stigma that the agreement is one-sided and does not reflect Vanuatu's sovereignty," Kalsakau said.
"Thinking that some troops from Australia will enter the country without visas and access our sovereign data will not happen unless we agree and give our informed consent.
PNG Concerned Over Document Texts AlsoThis comes as PNG Prime Minister James Marape told parliament on June 6 that he did not agree on “certain words” used in its security deal with Australia and that it was a “work in progress.”
At the same time, Marles said that good progress has been made on the bilateral security with PNG, despite Marape saying he would not provide a time frame as to when the treaty would be finalised.
"[We] discussed progress on commitments to strengthen the already close partnership between our two countries—including on defence and security, visa processing and labour mobility," Marles said in a statement reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Security Pacts to Counter Beijing’s Influence in the RegionBoth Australia and the U.S. have ramped up diplomatic efforts with Pacific nations following the signing of a security pact with the Soloman Islands and Beijing.
The contentious pact, signed in April 2022, would allow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—with the consent of the Solomon Islands—to dispatch police, troops, weapons, and even naval ships to “protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands,” based on leaked pages from the document.
But China’s Ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, said in May that the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands is for “social stability” and not defence.
In May, PNG signed a security pact with the United States that could see the U.S. military expand its presence on the island nation. It would also support PNG in building its defence capacity and tackling illegal fishing.
Marape affirmed that his nation “in no way would compromise its excellent existing bilateral relations with Australia” and that PNG was capable of managing its sovereign affairs.
Meanwhile, the security deal between Vanuatu and Australia, signed in December 2022, aims to facilitate cooperation between the two nations in various areas, including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, policing, defence, environment and resource security, and cyber security.