Marape tells Australia new security pact is delayed

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape says a proposed security treaty with Australia has been delayed.

This comes a week after PNG signed a security pact with the United States which sparked protests at universities around the country.

Marape informed Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles of the delay on Monday, the PM’s office said in a statement on Tuesday.

The PM told Marles, who is also Australian Defence Minister, the treaty is a “work in progress and required the PNG side to consult our domestic processes and sovereign laws in relation to certain wordings and provisions”.

The statement said Marape had apologised to his counterpart Anthony Albanese.

In January, the two leaders pledged in a joint statement to conclude substantive negotiations on the treaty by the end of April.

The treaty, which would enhance security cooperation and acknowledge that the neighbouring nations “share a mutual strategic interest in a safe, stable, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” was expected to be signed this month.

No new timeline has been provided.

Australia and the United States are working to counter China’s increasing influence in South Pacific nations including Papua New Guinea.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Port Moresby last week to sign a new bilateral agreement.

The State Department said the pact provides a framework to improve security cooperation, enhance the capacity of Papua New Guinea’s defence force and increase regional stability.

The full agreement is due to be made public once politicians in both countries have an opportunity for input, likely in a couple of months.

Last week Marape said the pact would be mutually beneficial and “secures our national interests” in “becoming a robust economy in this part of the world.”

The announcement of the delay in the agreement came as Anthony Albanese prepared to fly to Singapore to give the keynote address on Friday at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a leading regional security forum.

He said he would use his address to “outline Australia’s vision for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific”.

“Australia is committed to expanding and deepening ties with our partners in Southeast Asia to address shared challenges and ambitions,” Albanese said.

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