Australia signs security agreement with Papua New Guinea

By Kirsty Needham and Peter Hobson

CANBERRA (Reuters) -Australia and neighbouring Papua New Guinea signed a bilateral security agreement on Thursday that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and counterpart James Marape said showed the closeness of the two nations.

The deal is designed to bolster Papua New Guinea’s internal security through more assistance in policing, defence and the judiciary as the Pacific Islands’ largest nation seeks to develop its economy.

Amid strategic competition between China and the United States in the region, PNG signed a defence deal with the United States in May to upgrade its military bases, and is also boosting trade ties with China.

Marape told reporters on Thursday the security agreement with Australia showed they were “brother and sister nations”, but added PNG woud not pick sides and had a foreign policy of “friends to all”.

“This is a comprehensive and historic agreement. It will make it easier for Australia to help PNG address its internal security needs,” Albanese told a press conference in Canberra.

He paid tribute to the support PNG’s population gave to Australian servicemen during World War Two, and said it was a defence relationship forged through giving lives.

“For our interests going forward, we have no closer friends than Papua New Guinea,” Albanese said.

The structure of PNG’s judiciary, public service and borders were established by Australia before PNG became an independent nation 48 years ago, Marape said.

“You have always given support to us. What happens up north of your borders has deep, deep shared effect, benefit, consequences, on our region,” he added.

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Kirsty Needham in Sydney, and Peter Hobson in Canberra; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Sonali Paul)