Papua New Guinea said it does not see China as “an enemy,” but is supporting the Philippines in advocacy for the international community to follow the “rule of law” in the West Philippine Sea.

PNG Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko is in Manila and held bilateral talks with his Philippine counterpart Enrique Manalo Thursday.

“For what is happening in your country, the Philippines, we have to observe international law, which is very important. Sovereignty of all countries is important and must be respected,” Tkatchenko told select Philippine reporters during a joint press conference.

Tkatchenko was mum when asked if the security deal that Port Moresby is negotiating with Beijing could be a source of concern for the Philippines.

China had offered in January 2024 to assist Papuan police force with training, equipment and surveillance technology, following the riots that beset PNG’s capital. Tkatchenko said they are holding initial talks about this China’s proposal.

The PNG foreign minister stressed that it still maintains relations with traditional security partners — U.S, Australia, and New Zealand.

“For Papua New Guinea, like we, (our) foreign policy is ‘Friends to all, enemy to none.’ We try and balance the understanding between all the countries that we deal with.

“We respect the Philippines, relationship [with] Australia and many others. So at the end of the day, I don’t see China as an enemy. We see it as a partner and a partner to help develop our country and for the good of China as well,” Tkatchenko said, adding that China is one of their biggest trading and economic partners.

Philippine Secretary Manalo said he updated Minister Tkatchenko on the “challenges faced by the Philippines” in the West Philippine Sea during their bilateral meeting and discussed possible defence cooperation among many areas to improve bilateral relations.

“We are concerned with the situation in the West Philippine Sea. We do have a very common commitment on the importance of international law adherence to international law maritime law. And we both felt that it’s only through this adherence to international law, [that] nations can cooperate fruitfully and peacefully.

“I think this common approach further signifies then the adherence of both our countries to observing international law and and rules and regulations, and I think is the way that we will conduct our relationship in the days ahead,” Manalo said.

Washington D.C had earlier urged Tkatchenko to reject Beijing’s security deal offer, including investments, saying such deals “usually come with a high cost.