Justin Tkachenko, Papua New Guinea’s foreign minister, told ABC television he had discussed a security treaty with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong during her visit to Port Moresby on Tuesday, while Wong told ABC the talks were “at a very early stage.”
The Solomon Islands’ relationship with the United States and its Pacific allies has been tense since they signed a security treaty with China in April. Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific island nations have said security needs must be met within the region.
“This is an idea that was brought up by PNG,” Marlis told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
“We have really made it clear that we want to be as close as possible to Papua New Guinea. We want to build on the already close military-military relationship that we have with Papua New Guinea, which we consider one of the most important military-military relations between us.”
Papua New Guinea is Australia’s closest neighbor to the north, just a few miles away, and a former colony, but the country has increasing trade and investment ties with China.
In June, China failed to sign a major trade and security agreement with 10 Pacific countries, including Papua New Guinea.
Australia and the United States are funding the modernization of a naval base on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, after a failed Chinese offer to redevelop a naval base in 2018.
Chinese Navy ships pass through the narrow Torres Strait that separates Australia and Papua New Guinea, and that activity became a flashpoint in February when a Chinese ship pointed a laser at an Australian military reconnaissance plane flying over Australia’s northern entrances.
The Solomon Islands, which has maritime borders with Papua New Guinea and Australia, said on Tuesday it would suspend port visits by foreign navies until it put in place a new approval process.
Marlis declined to comment directly on whether Australia had been notified of the moratorium on port visits, after the US government received a notification a week later that the US Coast Guard vessel was unable to make a port call in Honiara.
“We want Australia to be the natural partner of choice for the Pacific nations, which we don’t take for granted,” he said.
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