By Brad Dress
May 22, 2023
Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers a question during a Senate Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs to discuss the President’s the FY 2024 budget for the Department on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.
The United States on Monday signed a new security agreement with the island nation of Papua New Guinea as Washington seeks to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Defense Cooperation Agreement enhances and modernizes an old security pact between the nations, increasing bilateral and multilateral exercises and improving the capabilities of the U.S. to respond to emergency situations.
Another agreement reached Monday expands efforts to address maritime threats, including illegal fishing and smuggling operations. The pact, similar to those forged with other partner nations in the Indo-Pacific, allows U.S. Coast Guard officers to board and search ships suspected of illegal activities.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed the agreement in the country’s capital of Port Moresby on Monday.
Blinken said the two countries have a “deep and rich shared history.”
“The work that we’re doing together to try to shape the future could not be more important, could not be more timely,” Blinken said ahead of the signing with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape.
Blinken traveled to Papua New Guinea in the place of President Biden, who canceled what would have been the first visit from a sitting U.S. president to a Pacific country. Biden returned to Washington to work to resolve the debt ceiling crisis.
The security agreement also includes a U.S. commitment of more than $12 million of equipment.
Some Papua New Guinea citizens have protested the security agreement, expressing concern about the increasing militarization of the region.
Marape said the meeting with Blinken was “historic” and could foster important growth in his country.
“That’s why across [the] country we are here to get to develop our country to be better developed and not where we are today,” Marape said in his public remarks.
The U.S. has been expanding its influence in the Indo-Pacific over growing concerns about Chinese encroachment in the region, including a possible invasion of the self-governing island nation Taiwan.
Washington recently announced the expansion of more rotating military bases in the Philippines and has forged an agreement with Australia to boost submarine patrols and the naval capabilities of Canberra.
China has reacted with anger over the expanding military presence of the U.S. and its allies, which Beijing has called hostile and an aggressive military push.
The U.S. also announced a wide range of other initiatives with Papua New Guinea, including efforts to address climate change.