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US treaty details sought

By REBECCA KUKU, The National PNG

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OPPOSITION Leader Joseph Lelang says citizens looking forward to catch a glimpse of the United States (US) President Joe Biden will be disappointed after he cancelled his trip to the country.

But he added that the cancellation would give the Government the opportunity to tell the country about the Defence Cooperation Treaty to be signed by the US and Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.

“The cancellation of the trip will give Prime Minister James Marape the opportunity to tell the country what this Defence Cooperation Treaty is all about,” he said.
He said contents of the treaty with the United States were sketchy creating confusion and uneasiness as to what it meant for PNG.

This comes after concerns were raised that the country could be dragged into the militarisation of the Pacific, if PNG signed a security treaty with the US.
Lelang said the country had a foreign policy of “friends to all and enemies to none”.

“We need to stand firm on this foreign policy position,” he said.
“We should not be blinded by the dollar sign or be coerced into signing deals that may be detrimental to us in the long run.”

Lelang said it was a matter of national security, and that the Parliament must be informed of the details of the agreement, which should be debated prior to any signing. Meanwhile, Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker said the cancellation of Biden’s visit “may not be a bad thing for Papua New Guinea”.
Barker said that Biden could still send a senior representative “but it was always going to be a bit of a rushed visit”.

“Preparing for a less-rushed visit by the President at a later date, but still before the next US election period rolls out, will enable him to have a more meaningful visit with wider local engagement, and with less apparent competition for time and space with the other senior leaders to PNG, notably the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the leaders from this region, including Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific island states,” he said.

“Now is a time of major economic and geo-political changes, with major challenges, including climate change and other environmental and resource management issues, economic pressures, but also opportunities, which require cooperation.”

Barker said Pacific island nations including PNG needed investment, access to markets and job creation.

“They also must ensure sustainability and to safeguard their resources, and utilise them for the best opportunities for their own people and the future,” he said.
“The big development and trading partners need to be aware of local needs and concerns of the Pacific island nations, through local engagement, not just through politicians, but also civil society and business leaders, both men and women, and not have an unduly myopic perspective.”

Source: The National PNG

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