On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that a US Coast Guard ship will be deployed to Papua New Guinea. This move comes as part of the United States’ efforts to expand its military presence in the region in response to the increasing competition for influence with China.
“A US Coastguard cutter will be here in August,” said Austin, as he took over the first Pentagon boss to visit Papua New Guinea.
The step move capitalises on the defence pact which was recently signed between the two countries which offers greater military access to strategically important regions of the South Pacific to the United States.
Washington is willing to show how increased US security co-operation can benefit the regional partners and reduce local fears about Papua New Guinea getting dragged into a battle between US and China for influence in the region.
Papua New Guinea, which lies between Taiwan and US ally Australia, is the most populous and largest state in Melanesia, an area which was important in deciding the final result of World War II in the Pacific.
Papua New Guinea to benefit from coastguard deployment: Austin
Austin emphasised that Papua New Guinea will benefit from the coastguard deployment as it will stop the looting of its thinly protected maritime resources, and will also put a halt on activities like illegal fishing and trafficking.
As per a landmark US-Papua New Guinea security pact which was signed earlier this year, the United States will be able to operate and develop the facilities across the country.
With the agreement of Papua New Guinea, troops and vessels will be stationed by the US military at six key ports and airports, which include facilities in the capital Port Moresby and Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island.
Washington will have “unimpeded access” to the sites to “pre-position equipment, supplies and materiel” and have “exclusive use” of some zones where development and “construction activities” will be carried out, as per the text.