China has big stake in Bougainville independence – by Alan Boyd (Asia Times – December 12, 2019)

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is likely to take a hard line on complete independence for Bougainville, despite the breakaway island province’s recent overwhelming vote to establish its own nation.

How the situation is handled will have major implications for regional stability, particularly as China aims to pull Bougainville as a new independent nation into its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

PNG Prime Minister James Marape has accepted the referendum result, announced on Wednesday, but committed his government only to developing “a road map that leads to a lasting peace settlement” in consultation with Bougainville authorities.

“I want to assure the people of Bougainville and all Papua New Guineans that the government has heard your voice,” said Marape, who promised to outline his “vision” for the process at talks in Bougainville on Friday.

More than 97% of the island’s voters backed a total split with PNG in the two-week referendum, but government ministers in Port Moresby have made it clear they are worried about copycat secession movements in other outlying areas.

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