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The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea has warned the opposition not to 'play politics' with China's visit

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - The opposition in Papua New Guinea has been advised not to "play politics" with China's fo...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - The opposition in Papua New Guinea has been advised not to "play politics" with China's foreign minister's visit during an election campaign, emphasizing that China is a major commercial partner and the largest buyer of the Pacific nation's gas exports.

In the last days of an eight-nation tour that has raised concerns about Beijing's intentions in the region, Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Prime Minister James Marape on Friday after signing deals with his counterpart.

At a conference on Monday, China was unable to secure agreement from ten Pacific island states on a broad regional security and economic agreement. Several countries argued it was rushed and that they wanted to confer with the rest of the region, where some countries have diplomatic relations with Taiwan but not with Beijing.

Despite this, Wang's journey resulted in a slew of bilateral agreements on infrastructure, fisheries, trade, and police equipment, and authorities believe talks on a regional treaty will continue.

Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, claimed this week that Beijing wanted poorer countries to join its new "Global Security Initiative," though details were scarce.

After signing a security contract with the Solomon Islands, the US, Australia, and New Zealand have expressed worry over Beijing's offers for a larger security and policing presence in the Pacific.

Last month, the Federated States of Micronesia cautioned other Pacific countries that a multilateral agreement with China may lead to a "Cold War" in the region.

Wang stated in a virtual meeting with his Federated States of Micronesia colleague on Thursday that China is focusing on economic growth rather than strengthening its military in the Pacific.

According to a foreign ministry statement released on Friday, "the facts over nearly half a century have proven that contacts between China and (Pacific island countries) did not and would not harm regional security and stability."

According to East Timor's foreign ministry, Wang will fly to East Timor later on Friday to sign bilateral agreements on health, agriculture, media, and economic cooperation.

He'll also visit with newly elected President Jose Ramos-Horta in Dili, who has pushed for a closer cooperation between the two countries.


Papua New Guinea, which was administered by Australia until 1975 and is its closest neighbor, is strategically located, rich in resources, but relatively undeveloped.

In a statement, Prime Minister Marape stated that Papua New Guinea maintained a foreign policy of "friends to all and foes to none."

"China is our largest export market, and we will continue to engage with them in commerce and trade, as well as other elements of our bilateral relationship," he said.

China buys more than half of the gas generated in Papua New Guinea and has promised to buy more, he said.

Marape retaliated against former Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who is running for the presidency and has criticized Wang's visit as being untimely and advised that no deals should be struck.

"The previous prime minister is well aware of the importance of not playing politics with a foreign leader's visit to our country," Marape stated.


In her second journey to the area since being sworn in last week, Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong landed in Tonga on Friday to emphasize the new Australian government's pledges on climate change.

Wong, who visited Samoa on Thursday and announced a new coastguard patrol vessel, said, "We are not a government or country that wants to step in and tell you what to do."

Tonga's Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni, who signed six agreements with China on Tuesday, said the two countries shared "respect for democracy and rule of law, as well as the rights and freedoms of others" at a joint press conference.

In the priority areas of education, health, defense, trade, policing, and democratic government, he added, Australian help has been critical in Tonga's history and will continue.

Tonga's external debt is $195 million, or 35.9% of GDP, with two-thirds payable to China's Export-Import Bank, according to its budget.

On Wednesday, Sovaleni told reporters that the issue had been reviewed during the visit of the Chinese foreign minister, and that Tonga will continue to make payments.

He noted that Australia has pledged to enhance Tongan employment prospects as well as export potential.

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