The United States and Papua New Guinea (PNG) signed a defense cooperation agreement on Monday to solidify their bilateral ties as the U.S. attempts to push back China’s influence in the Pacific region.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with PNG Prime Minister James Marape in Port Moresby on behalf of President Joe Biden, whose planned trip was canceled due to debt limit talks in Washington.
The U.S.-PNG defense pact has not been made public, but Blinken said it would enable the United States to support PNG in building up its defense capacity, tackling illegal fishing, and providing disaster relief.
“I just want to stress this point: It wasn’t shoved down on our throat. It wasn’t forced upon us; it was a mutual agreement,” Marape said at a joint press conference.
“Our defense force needs to be stepped up and supported,” he remarked.
Marape emphasized that the U.S.-PNG defense agreement “in no way breaks or encroaches” PNG’s legislation nor affects the country’s relationships with other nations.
Read more: US Secures Defense Pact With Papua New Guinea Amid China Concerns