Former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has cautioned the Government to tread carefully on deals it plans to sign with any superpower given that “geopolitical issues are now on the horizon”.
“There is an emerging conflict between the superpowers in the global community,” he said.
During a live chat on Tuesday, the Ialibu-Pangia MP spoke about how the visit by some world leaders could influence the way the country shaped its foreign policy and relationships in the Asia-Pacific.
United States (US) President Joe Biden, who was to arrive on Monday, has cancelled the trip.
But India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 14 members of the Pacific Island Forum will be in Port Moresby for the one-day India-Pacific Island Cooperation summit.
O’Neill said some of these visits would influence the way PNG shaped its foreign policy and relationships in the Asia-Pacific.
He commented on a security agreement which was expected to be signed between PNG and the U.S government.
Prime Minister James Marape had told The National on Sunday that the U.S government was expected to sign defence and surveillance agreements with PNG next week.
A separate agreement will allow U.S Coast Guard to patrol PNG’s vast exclusive economic zone, with PNG officials on board as “ship riders”.
O’Neill pointed out that US was now taking an interest in PNG and other Pacific Island nations “after being absent for many years”.
“The document (agreement) wasn’t made public nor debated or approved by Parliament,” he said.
“The security agreement is concerning because PNG is entering into a position where there are geopolitical issues now on the horizon.
“We are a sovereign nation, we have to determine our own course, own path so that we can determine what sort of arrangement we can have both within the region and with global players.”
He said he understood that the security deal “was largely drafted by the U.S government, and only a few of our officials have seen this document”.
“This is concerning because we live in the Asia Pacific region where much of our trade and investment is coming from,” he said.
“How we position ourselves with this kind of agreement will determine the prosperity our own people and the performance of our economy, especially with China. We have an economic relation with China, agreements such as this will determine the future.”
Meanwhile, the defence pact to be signed with the United States (US) will not affect Papua New Guinea’s relationship with China, says Chief of Defence Major-General Mark Goina.
Goina said the defence and surveillance agreements to be signed with the US would not affect the country’s relationship with China.
“We made sure that our legal team, especially state solicitors, defence officers and foreign affairs, addressed all possible ways it could affect relations with other countries,” he said.
According to reports, Washington wanted to discourage island nations in the Pacific from having security ties with China.
Former Foreign Affairs minister Justin Tkatchenko told an international news agency that a Defence Cooperation Agreement had been finalised and was to be signed when President Biden visited PNG.
Biden’s visit scheduled for Monday had to be postponed because of US domestic issues he had to attend to.
Tkatchenko, however, was not aware of a visit by a special envoy from the People’s Liberation Army of China, led by deputy chief of the Office for International Military Cooperation, Major-General Song Yanchao, in March.
“There have been no visits by Chinese military in my time as the Foreign Minister,” he said.
The special envoy visited for two days to discuss reviving the Taurama military hospital project.
Goina had said a team from China was expected to visit to discuss how to finish the Taurama project.
He added the partnership with China would not be affected by the defence coorperation or the ship-rider’s agreements to be signed with the U.S.
“At this stage, I cannot disclose any details of the agreement,” Goina said.
“But I can say that we are happy where in terms of the ship-rider and the defence coorperation agreements with the U.S.
“I’m confident that this new agreement will go in harmony with other existing agreement PNG has with its partners in the
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS