Papua New Guinea (PNG) would like to establish a security treaty with Australia as security concerns led by China's push into the South Pacific continue to grow.
PNG Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Aug. 29 that his country is seeking to negotiate a security treaty with Australia and potentially New Zealand.
Tkatchenko said that he discussed the idea with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong during her visit to Port Moresby on Aug. 29 and 30. He signalled that both governments were willing to move forward with negotiations around a security treaty.
"There were discussions of a treaty going forward between our countries to ensure we are all on the same page when it comes to security in the region," Tkatchenko told the ABC. "And it will also make us connected in all aspects of anything that might arise now or into the future."
Treaty Could Potentially Include New ZealandTkatchenko said PNG would also like to see the agreement cover the security aspects of the region and potentially extend to New Zealand as well.
"I would say New Zealand would be a major part of it as well, in our region. It would be a joint treaty to work on security," he told the ABC. "A treaty between our traditional partners in the region will just help give security to all countries."
The PNG foreign minister also took pains to stress that the alliance was still in its infancy, with both Australia and PNG having just put the idea on the table. He said both countries were scheduled to have a more detailed discussion around the proposal at the upcoming PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum, which will be held in Canberra in November.
A 'Profoundly Important' AllyAt a joint press conference with Tkatchenko, Wong said that PNG was profoundly important to Australia.
"We share history. We share values. We share an affinity, and we share a region, and our futures are tied together. You see that by looking at today, but also by looking at the past, whether it’s thousands of years ago, we were connected by land. We’ve had trade between our countries and First Nations Australians for thousands of years too," she said.
"And we, today, remain not only a solid partner but a partner that seeks to work with you as your nation charts your way towards greater prosperity and greater security."
The discussion around a security treaty comes amid rising geopolitical competition in the region, as China seeks to carve out a position in the Pacific, which has caused tensions among the Pacific community.
US Seeking Closer Security TiesThe discussion of a security alliance between PNG and Australia comes as Pacific leaders head to the U.S. to meet with President Joe Biden at the White House in September.
The United States is currently seeking to increase security ties with PNG amid the fallout of a freshly minted agreement between Beijing and the Solomon Islands that could see Chinese troops and weapons stationed in the region.
Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, has said in April that further discussions with PNG's Prime Minister James Marape would be held in the coming months, reported Reuters.