United States Military Will Use Papua New Guinea Naval Facility for 15 Years

According to a report by Nikkei, the United States will receive access to 6 facilities in Papua New Guinea, which includes a naval base, for 15 years under a defense agreement that both countries signed.

This looks like another move by the US to confront China as the US geostrategically pivots to Asia. 

On July 18, 2023, the US Department of Defense announced that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit Papua New Guinea and Australia later in July. Making a reference to a defense agreement signed with Papua New Guinea back in May, the Defense Department highlighted that Austin would “discuss next steps” to enact the agreement.

Nikkei was able to obtain the full agreement’s text. According to the agreement’s text, the agreement has the goal of “strengthening their [the two countries’] defense relationship further and addressing shared security challenges.” 

This agreement is only valid for 15 years and can be extended if both parties agree to it. 

The US military will use Lombrum Naval Base and Momote Airport in northern Papua New Guinea, in addition to ports and airports in the capital of Port Moresby and Lae in the country’s center.

The agreement outlines that the Lombrum Naval Base will be used for “contingency operations,” on top of natural disaster response and humanitarian aid efforts. From the looks of it, the US government might use Papua New Guinea as a base of operations in a situation where it clashes with China in the Taiwan Strait and or the South China Sea.

Per the text’s agreement, the US military will consider prepositioning supplies, equipment, and material, on top of fueling aircraft and ships at the 6 facilities. It also lays out the potential for joint training exercises with Papua New Guinea. 

A Defense Department  spokesperson addressed concerns stated: “The agreement itself does not signal, anticipate or specifically authorize a permanent presence of U.S. forces.”

“It’s important to remember that the [Defense Cooperation Agreement] will respect PNG sovereign decisions,” the spokesperson commented. “All activities must be mutually agreed upon.”

“The DCA builds upon decades of defense cooperation with Papua New Guinea,” the spokesperson continued. “The agreement will modernize our security relationship, providing the foundational framework around which our two countries will enhance security cooperation and further strengthen our bilateral relationship, improve the capacity of the PNG Defence Force, and increase stability and security in the region.”

The US’s forging of military ties with Papua New Guinea was likely done in response to China strengthening ties with the neighboring Solomon Islands 

In July, Manasseh Sogavare, the Solomon Islands’ prime minister, held a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The Solomon Islands opened an embassy in Beijing and signed a law enforcement cooperation agreement with China.

China and Solomon Islands inked a security pact back in April 2022. These moves by China have made US authorities become increasingly scared that the Chinese may use the Solomon Islands as a military base in the medium to long-term. 

The US is clearly pivoting to Asia, despite its quixotic venture of arming Ukraine to the teeth against Russia. By now focusing considerable resources towards containing China, the US is clearly miring itself in another case of imperial overstretch. 

For the sake of promoting geopolitical stability and preserving human life, the US needs to end this China containment project and instead pursue an America First policy of immigration restriction and economic nationalism that limits China’s influence in the US.

In order for this to happen, the US will need a completely different ruling class at the helm.

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