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PNG leader Marape tells Australia economic growth brings security

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SYDNEY: Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape told Australia’s parliament on Thursday his nation’s economic growth would make Australia more secure, adding that nothing would come between the two neighbours.
Marape’s speech to the national parliament in Canberra, the first by a Pacific Island leader, comes as Australia competes with China for influence and security ties in the region.
PNG needs to become a self-sustaining economy, Marape told the Australian lawmakers.
“A strong economically empowered Papua New Guinea means a stronger and more secure Australia and Pacific,” he said in the televised speech. “In a world of many relations with many nations, nothing will come in between our two countries because we are family.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese highlighted the historical and geographic closeness of the two nations, and Australia’s support for PNG roads, port upgrades, clean energy and hospitals, as well as new undersea telecommunications cables.
Australia wanted to secure PNG’s future as its “primary partner”, he said.
Australia is the largest aid donor to its northern neighbour, and struck a security agreement covering policing and defence in December. Both nations count China as a major trading partner.
After deadly riots in the PNG capital Port Moresby in January during a police strike, Marape is seeking progress during his visit in implementing the A$200 million ($131 million) security and policing agreement.
In a joint statement on Thursday after the two leaders met, Marape and Albanese said they had discussed defence and security, with A$100 million to be spent by Australia on boosting PNG’s internal security, including new police training facilities and barracks.
The statement noted deepening links between the two nations’ defence forces, including joint exercises, naval base construction and Australia’s provision of a patrol boat and two aircraft.
The leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to the region’s existing security architecture as a key driver of security cooperation” it said. They looked forward to building further regional policing capabilities in consultation with other Pacific leaders, it added.
Earlier, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong told reporters Marape’s speech to the parliament showed Australia wanted greater engagement with the Pacific.
“We know that China is a great power asserting its interests. What we are doing is re-emphasising our part in the Pacific family and the importance of that engagement,” Wong said.
Foreign Minister Justin Tkachenko last week told Reuters that PNG had been approached by China with an offer to assist its police force with training, equipment and surveillance technology, although no decision had been made. He told ABC on Wednesday that PNG would not proceed with a security deal with China.

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