June 1, 2023

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Moody and Blinken meet Pacific Island leaders in Papua New Guinea

Moody and Blinken meet Pacific Island leaders in Papua New Guinea

(Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a summit with Pacific island leaders in Papua New Guinea on Monday, and the US secretary of state is also scheduled to meet the leaders later in the day and sign a defense pact with Papua New Guinea. .

In his opening remarks to the summit, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape said India was the leader of the global south, a term used to refer to some low- and middle-income countries, adding that “our people have been left behind”.

Modi told the 14 leaders of the Indo-Pacific Islands Cooperation Forum that India would be a reliable partner for the small island nations amid difficulties caused by supply chain disruptions and climate change. He said that India is committed to the establishment of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Earlier, Modi wrote on social media that he had discussed “ways to enhance cooperation in trade, technology, healthcare and tackling climate change” with Papua New Guinea in a bilateral meeting with Marape on Monday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to sign a defense cooperation agreement between the US and Papua New Guinea, and also hold a meeting of Pacific island leaders in the afternoon.

The US State Department said Washington will provide $45 million in new funds as it partners with Papua New Guinea to enhance economic and security cooperation, including protective equipment for the Papua New Guinea Defense Force, mitigating climate change and tackling cross-border crime and HIV. / AIDS.

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The US commander of Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquino, on Monday attended a ceremony at Murray Barracks in Papua New Guinea to present personal protective equipment to the Papua New Guinea Defense Force, the PNG Post Courier reports.

Marby told the media on Sunday that the defense agreement would also see an increase in the US military presence over the next decade.

Police Commissioner David Manning said there was a heavy police and military presence around the capital, Port Moresby, with roads closed and defense boats patrolling the waters around the meeting venue, in the largest gathering of international leaders in the country since the 2018 APEC summit.

Several universities have held campus protests against the signing of the defense cooperation agreement, amid fears it could upset China. Marape denied it would stop PNG doing business with China, an important trading partner.

China, a major provider of infrastructure to the Pacific islands in recent years, signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands last year, raising concerns from the United States and its allies about Beijing’s intentions in an area covering vital sea lanes.

The Papua New Guinea government said earlier that the US defense agreement will boost Papua New Guinea’s defense infrastructure and capacity after decades of neglect.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hepkins told reporters in Port Moresby that the defense agreement between the United States and Papua New Guinea “is an extension of an existing relationship and is not only about military presence but also about development.”

The Papua New Guinea government said in a statement on Monday that Blinken will also sign a Vessel Passenger Agreement, allowing US Coast Guard vessels carrying Papua New Guinean officials to patrol its exclusive economic zone.

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(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney); Edited by Lincoln Feast

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