Worrying China trades with Papua New Guinea

Worrying China trades with Papua New Guinea

As concerns linger over a security pact with the Solomon Islands, there are fears China is now looking to cement itself in Papua New Guinea.

Increasing Chinese trade investments with Papua New Guinea have heightened concerns the nation could be laying the groundwork that would allow the nation a military foothold on Australia’s doorstep.

China is already a major investor in Papua New Guinea and buys much of the country’s gas, minerals, timber and other resources, and in early June, the two nations were in talks over a free trade deal.

In a preview for Sunday night’s episode of 60 Minutes, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape appeared unphased by the possibiliy, despite lingering concerns after China struck up a deal with neighbouring Solomon Islands earlier this year.

“I have no information to be honest,” Mr Marape claimed of the Solomons pact, despite reporter Tom Steinfort’s insertions that it would be very hard not to have heard about it.

When pressed on the issue, Marape went on to deny an investment from China would win them any favours.

“I try my very best not to get into other nations’ sovereign issues,” he said. “We know which boundaries to protect and which boundaries not to cross.”

Australia slammed China’s security pact with Solomon Islands when it came out as “deeply disappointing”, insisting it must never be used to establish a Chinese military base.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne raised concerns about the transparency of the new deal after China confirmed it was now signed.

“Australia is deeply disappointed by the signing of a security co-operation agreement between Solomon Islands and China, announced by the Chinese Government,’’ Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.

“We respect Solomon Islands’ right to make sovereign decisions about its national security.

“We are concerned about the lack of transparency with which this agreement has been developed, noting its potential to undermine stability in our region. We continue to seek further clarity on the terms of the agreement, and its consequences for the Pacific region.”

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi spent more than a week travelling through the South Pacific earlier this year, pressing the case for a greater role by Beijing in regional security.

Despite Wang’s 10-day tour, the Pacific Islands rejected a regional deal that would have given Beijing a much greater role in sensitive areas including policing, cybersecurity and maritime surveillance.

His trip did however prompt Australia’s new foreign minister Penny Wong to make quick-fire visits to three Pacific Island states, looking to shore up decades-long alliances.

Former US commander Philip Davidson told 60 Minutes China’s forays into the region were part of a bigger plan.

“I think Papua New Guinea and, frankly, all the nations in the Indo-Pacific are at risk,” he said.

“China does not play by the rules. They have ambition, by the middle of this century, to displace the international order and replace it with one of their own.”

– With AFP

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