Papua New Guinea prime minister to visit China amid Australia’s anxiety

Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neill. Picture: FT FILE/RNZ

PORT MORESBY/BEIJING, (GLOBAL TIMES) — Papua New Guinea Minister Peter O’Neill was scheduled to visit China from Wednesday with analysts saying well-developed China-Papua New Guinea relations fit interests of both sides and Australian media should not hype China’s threat in the southern Pacific Ocean region.

O’Neill’s visit to China is an important high-level exchange between China and Papua New Guinea.

During the visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Prime Minister O’Neill. Premier Li Keqiang will also meet with him, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a daily briefing on June 15.

“Papua New Guinea, the second Pacific Island nation in the southern Pacific Ocean which stretches across Oceania
and Asia, has paid attention to developing ties with Asian countries for ages. It is natural for Papua New Guinea to
strengthen ties with China considering China’s increasing influence,” Han Feng, professor and former deputy director-general of the National Institute of International Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Han noted that Papua New Guinea is also important for China to promote the Belt and Road initiative.

Han added that some Australian experts and media hold prejudice against China’s Belt and Road initiative and
negatively hyped China’s presence in the area. But China is promoting the initiative and launching cooperation with these countries under the principle of equality, coordination and transparency.

“China and Papua New Guinea have strengthened cooperation on infrastructure construction, processing trade and maritime projects recently under the Belt and Road initiative. The two sides also share common interests in some key issues, including climate change,” Yu Lei, a research fellow at the Australian Studies Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times.

“Some countries, especially the US and Australia are oversensitive and worried about China’s increasing presence in the southern Pacific Ocean region since Chinese enterprises have curtailed their dominance in local markets. They can no longer pressure some countries by loan agreements as many turn to China for help,” Yu said, adding that China’s financial assistance is without subsidiary conditions.

O’Neill’s China trip also comes as Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop told Fairfax that Australia was
concerned about Chinese influence in the Pacific, claiming Australia wanted to be the “natural partner of choice” to Pacific nations, ABC News reported.

Yu said that it is natural to see China’s political and economic influence has increased in the area as more cooperation has been launched and it is also normal for China to take part in enlarging some ports in the areas for trade or build satellite observation or scientific stations.

“China is not seeking military presence in the area but to better take part in local development and protect their own interests. Some countries who hype the China threat in the area only shows that they should learn to get used to the situation,” Yu said.

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