Update 1: Corrects slug
Sydney, Australia, Jan 12 (EFE).- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged Thursday during a speech in the Papua New Guinea Parliament to strengthen defense ties with his historic ally, amid a growing conflict with China over influence in the Pacific region.
Albanese, the first foreign leader to address the Papuan legislature in person, stressed the “friendship” and ties that unite the two countries and spoke about offering Australia’s help in the many internal challenges facing Papua New Guinea.
The Australian leader urged a speedy conclusion to negotiations on a security treaty covering “law and order challenges” in the neighboring impoverished resource-rich Pacific nation.
“A treaty based on deepening trust,” said the prime minister, appealing to the “family” of the Pacific, a term with which Australia seeks to strengthen ties with its neighbors in Oceania in the face of increasing Beijing’s influence in the region.
Albanese, who began a two-day visit Thursday to Papua New Guinea, plans to meet with his counterpart James Marape to discuss the negotiation of the security pact, among other wide range of issues.
Since coming to power in May 2022, Albanese’s government, which ended nine years of conservative rule, has turned Australian foreign policy around and seeks to get closer to the Pacific countries.
The change was preceded by the opaque security agreement signed in April 2022 by China and the Solomon Islands, which allows the dispatch of Chinese troops at the request of Honiara, a pact similar to the one that the Solomonian authorities maintain with Australia.
This agreement between Beijing and Honiara raised fears from countries including the United States about China’s growing influence in the small island states of the Pacific, as Beijing seeks to sign an unprecedented multilateral agreement with a dozen of these nations.
Papua New Guinea, with a population of 10 million and which gained independence from Australia in 1975, is the largest recipient of Australian aid, with estimated aid by 2023 at AUD 480 million (more than $ 330 million), according to the Canberra budget. EFE