Australian base in PNG would be of little benefit – academic

Massey University's Anna Powles. Picture: VANUATU INDEPENDENT

CANBERRA,25 SEPTEMBER 2018 (RNZ PACIFIC) – An academic specialising in regional security says talk of an Australian base in Papua New Guinea again underlines how out of sync Canberra is with the rest of the region.

The government is said to be in talks with PNG to establish a joint naval base.

While Canberra has not confirmed the plans, it has commissioned a US$3 million infrastructure upgrade at PNG’s Lombrum naval base on Manus Island.

PNG’s defence minister is also reported as saying talks are underway.

Massey University’s Anna Powles said Australia seems to be wanting to increase its military presence in the region.

“This very security-driven agenda that’s coming out of Canberra actually contradicts the push for demilitarisation within the Pacific. That is a very strong theme within the region,” Dr Powles said.

“It also challenges the fact that for the Pacific island countries, the single greatest threat is climate change, it’s not China.”

Dr Powles said questions needed to be asked about how such a base would benefit PNG and the wider Pacific, and whether it would achieve what it sets out to do: serving as a counterweight to Chinese influence.

“PNG has a very strong relationship with China. It’s likely to sign a free trade agreement with China. It has signed up to the Belt and Road initiative. China has been a key partner in making APEC happen and has committed to a significant amount of loans and has very vividly demonstrated its presence and relationship with PNG,” he said.

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