Australia outpaced China for a deal to develop PNG’s Lombrum naval base, a strategic facility that will bolster Canberra’s power projection in the South Pacific and South China Sea
Australian naval vessels have arrived in Papua New Guinea to protect leaders at a summit of Pacific Rim nations next week, giving a foretaste of the newly elevated defense relationship between the two neighbors.
Defense officials confirmed that Australia’s helicopter docking ship HMAS Adelaide is now off Papua New Guinea’s capital of Port Moresby, accompanied by two patrol boats. They will provide security for cruise ships tethered in the harbor that will house delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering.
Australian special forces troops have been in Papua New Guinea for two months preparing security measures around facilities for the November 17-18 summit, which will be attended by US Vice President Mike Pence, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of 18 other countries.
A series of meetings held in conjunction with the summit starts on Monday. About 1,500 Australian service personnel are providing the backbone of the Joint Security Task Force, supported by F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jets and MRH-90 helicopters.
The US is supplying customs vessels, while Indonesia and New Zealand have helped train local police and military. The operation is mostly aimed at deterring potential terrorist threats, especially for the vulnerable cruise ships, but also sends a firm message of regional solidarity as China flexes its own muscles in the South Pacific and South China Sea.
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