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Prime Minister: Strong Partnership with PNG Key to Maintaining Peace in the Region

PNG Prime Minister James Marape addressed the Australian federal Parliament on Feb. 8.

A strong and prosperous Papua New Guinea (PNG) will help Australia maintain peace and security in the Indo-Pacific, says Prime Minister James Marape.

In a special address to the Australian federal Parliament, ahead of the ASEAN meeting next month, Mr. Marape expressed his deep gratitude to Australia for supporting the Pacific nation’s transition into a more stable, and wealthy nation, while emphasising the need for it to stand on its own two feet.

“A strong and prosperous Papua New Guinea, means a more secure Australia in the Pacific,” the prime minister said.

“It must become a strong country, standing on our two feet, economically independent and strong. So we too, can help Australia maintain democracy, preserve peace, and ensure stability in our part of planet Earth,” he added.

“This is something that must be done with a sense of agency, and we take this responsibility seriously. Papua New Guinea forever appreciates the assistance by Australia to become safe, secure, and free from the transnational crimes of drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism matters. We aspire to be a safe and secure country with a robust economy.”

His comments come amid increasing tensions from Beijing in the region, notably with military incursions into Taiwanese airspace, the construction of manmade islands in the South China Sea, and influence-building activities in the South Pacific—all feeding into the spectre of conflict in the near future.

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The Marape government has also had to fend off concerns that it is considering signing a security deal with Beijing.

“I want to make this very clear—we are not pressing forward with any security pact or agreement with China, and look forward to implementing the bilateral security arrangement with Australia,” PNG Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko told ABC.

PNG and Australia inked a security deal in December last year, when Mr. Marape last visited. The agreement includes $200 million towards helping train PNG police.

‘Joined at the Hip’: Marape

Meanwhile, the prime minister also spoke about the tight bonds between both nations—PNG was administered by Australia until 1975, when it was allowed independence by then-Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

“History shows we have lived over 10,000 years and this part of planet Earth. We are locked into earth’s crust together,” Mr. Marape said.

“Look at the geology and you realise that a plate holds us together. Holds us together. We share that and so one might say, we are joined at the hip, so we are going nowhere but we must coexist. Until Jesus comes.”

He also thanked the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for his support for labour mobility opportunities—the ability for PNG residents to work in Australia and send remittances back home—and for Mr. Albanese’s support for setting up a National Rugby League team in the country.

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