Unease over US-PNG security deal

PAPUA New Guinea has signed a new defence agreement with the United States while Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Port Moresby.
Unease over US-PNG security deal Unease over US-PNG security deal Unease over US-PNG security deal Unease over US-PNG security deal Unease over US-PNG security deal

A demonstration at the University of Papua New Guinea

Staff Reporter

"The Defence Cooperation Agreement, which, when it enters into force, will serve as a foundational framework upon which our two countries can enhance security cooperation and further strengthen our bilateral relationship, improve the capacity of the PNG Defence Force and increase stability and security in the region," the US Department of State announced on its website. 
"The United States expects to publish the text of the Defence Cooperation Agreement after entry into force, consistent with US law."
The Department of State added that on May 19, the US Department of Defence had provided PNGDF with $5.4 million worth of personal protective equipment funded by the Foreign Military Financing program. 
"The PPE includes ballistic helmets, flak vests with armour plates, elbow pads, knee pads, and eye protection, and will be provided to PNGDF members deployed to the border and domestically for security operations.
"The US Department of Defence also intends to provide PNGDF $7 million in support to procure dress uniforms and name tags for the upcoming PNG 50th Independence Celebrations in 2025.  This assistance is a step toward deepening the defence relationship between our countries while also demonstrating our commitment, dedication, and investment in the future of PNG," the Department of State said.
Radio New Zealand Pacific notes that PNG expects to see a steady increase in US military presence following the signing.
But there is uncertainty over the future implications for the country and its people with the agreement giving the US access to strategic military and civilian locations within Papua New Guinea.
"You need not fear, this is not a new thing," Prime Minister James Marape told when questioned by media.
"How many soldiers we are looking at, how many contractors we are looking at, I do not have that scope today but there will certainly be an increased presence and a more direct presence of US in our country.
"Certainly, as we go forward over the next 15 years, we will see US soldiers in our country. We will see US contractors in our country," Marape said.
Outside of political circles, various groups have come together to voice strong concerns about the agreement, RNZ Pacific reported.
The President of the Catholic Professionals Society, Paul Harricknen fears the agreement may be unconstitutional.
"America needs to understand that we are a constitutional democracy. If there is to be geopolitical rivalry, they cannot use PNG for their disagreements," Harricknen said.
The University of PNG and other academic institutions throughout the country are protesting over the agreement with the US, saying more detail about what it entails should be disclosed.
Lae's University of Technology student president Kenzie Walipi said the government needed to explain what was going to be contained in the deal.
"If such an agreement is going to affect us in any way, we have to be made aware," Walipi said in a media statement.
"An agreement of this magnitude must go before parliament. There must be clarity. The people must be made aware of the implications."
PNG officials and Blinken also signed a "bilateral agreement to counter illicit transnational maritime activity".
This will involve joint at-sea operations.
"This agreement will enable the US Coast Guard's Shiprider program to partner with and enhance PNG's maritime governance capacity, enabling them to exercise their authority and enforce their laws and regulations where they have jurisdiction. 
"Notably, this agreement will help to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing by closing global gaps in enforcement; improving cooperation, coordination, and interoperability; and building PNG's overall maritime governance capacity," the Department of State said.
The full statement which followed the May 22 agreements may be found at this address: https://bit.ly/42OapTH


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