Mon, Nov 19, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Australia and US to help develop PNG naval base

The Guardian

The US will partner with Australia to develop the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, telegraphing a strategic commitment to the region at a time of concern about rising Chinese influence.

The joint facility, which crowds out an aspiration by Beijing to develop the port, was unveiled by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Papua New Guinean counterpart, Peter O’Neill, at the beginning of the month.

US Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday used the APEC summit in Port Moresby to confirm the US would also support the naval facility on Manus Island, which can host more warships in the Pacific.

The US gesture in Port Moresby builds on a commitment by Japan, announced by Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the opening of the APEC summit, to boost infrastructure investment in the region.

It is clear the positioning from Australia, Japan and the US is aimed to check China’s influence, but Morrison told reporters US involvement on Manus was at Papua New Guinea’s invitation.

“It’s their sovereign territory, that’s why we’re working together under their leadership. It’s their initiative and we’re pleased to be part of it,” he said.

“We will be working with Pacific Island nations at their invitation wherever we have that opportunity consistent with the programs that we’re running. Those programs are cultural programs, they’re educational programs, they’re strategic defense programs, they’re communications and infrastructure and the cable and all of these sorts of measures. We’re looking to build up the Pacific,” Morrison said.

Very few details are available about the costs of the Manus project, and how they will be balanced between the partners.

Ahead of the summit, Morrison unveiled a US$2 billion infrastructure financing facility for the Pacific as part of new measures designed to project Australia as the region’s principal security and development partner.

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