US won’t put permanent military base in Papua: Defense secretary

Sydney, Australia, Jul 27 (EFE).- United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday his country won’t establish a permanent military base in Papua New Guinea during the visit to the country, with which he sealed a security agreement in May.

“I want to make it clear that we are not looking for a permanent base in Papua New Guinea,” Austin said amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing in the strategic and troubled Indo-Pacific region.

The US and Papua New Guinea agreed two months ago that American troops would have access to several Papuan ports and airports, where the first coast guard ship is expected to arrive in August.

Austin said, during a press conference in Port Moresby together with Prime Minister James Marape, that the defense pact with Papua New Guinea represents a “fundamental and foundational” framework that reflects the “shared values” between both nations.

“We are very interested in keeping the Indo-Pacific free and open and regulated under the rules of international order,” the American said, without alluding to China, whom Washington has previously accused of agitating in this strategic region.

Marape said the defense pact with the US is aimed at improving “infrastructure and development” for his country, adding that the US has a military presence in other Indo-Pacific countries such as Japan, the Philippines and Australia.

“We are not doing anything new that other nations in the region have done with the United States,” said Marape, who was criticized by the Papuan opposition as a result of this pact.

Austin, who arrived Wednesday in the country, plans to continue his tour in Australia, where he will meet State Secretary Antony Blinken on Friday to participate in a bilateral summit with their counterparts from Canberra.

Australia and the US have recently strengthened their alliance to maintain their influence in the Indo-Pacific region, amid the expansion of China.

This once-forgotten region regained geopolitical focus in 2022 when the Solomon Islands government, which in 2019 pivoted its diplomatic relations with Taiwan to favor China, signed a security pact with Beijing that provides for the dispatch of Chinese law enforcement at Honiara’s request. EFE


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