Saturday 17 November 2018 - 10:02

US to partner with Australia to redevelope naval base in Papua New Guinea

Story Code : 761746
Australia plans to build a new military base in Papua New Guinea that can also host US warships.
Australia plans to build a new military base in Papua New Guinea that can also host US warships.

On a visit to Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby on Saturday, US Vice President Mike Pence said Washington “will partner with Papua New Guinea and Australia on their joint initiative at Lombrum Naval Base.”

Australia has already announced plans to redevelop the naval base on Manus, the fifth-largest island in Papua New, which has a strategically vital position overlooking key trade routes across the world.

"We will work with these two nations to protect sovereignty and maritime rights in the Pacific Islands,” Pence said on the sidelines of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) regional summit in Papua New Guinea.

The Vice president did not, however, clarify how much money the administration of President Donald Trump would contribute to the project, or whether US vessels would be permanently based at Lombrum.

This is while, the governor of Manus Island said on Friday he had not been consulted on a navy base to be built with Australian help and that any development had to benefit the island’s residents.

“I have my people living on the island and we are the ones affected,” Reuters quoted Manus provincial governor Charlie Benjamin as saying. “The government might have the right but if we decide to put our foot down, there will be problems.”

China has already launch a multi-trillion-dollar project, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to connect the country to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond via massive infrastructure projects across dozens of countries.

Australian PM accuses China of loading up region with debts
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has long been critical of the Chinese project in the region, used a gathering of CEOs and world leaders in the lead-up to the APEC meeting in Port Moresby, accusing China of using the project to load up Pacific nation with nations with “unsustainable” debt.

Morison also warned both Beijing and Washington – who are engaged in a fierce trade dispute – saying trade wars benefit no one and must be solved by negotiation rather than tit-for-tat tariffs.

“The world is facing a rising tide of trade protectionism and financial market volatility, said Morrison. “The test for us now, for all of us, is to stand up for the economic values we believe in and show how they work, to demonstrate it.”

His remarks were a clear reference to the escalating trade war between the world top two economic powers, which prompted the two sides to impose tit-for-tat tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods over the past few months.

China: US protectionism ‘doomed to failure’
In back-to-back speeches on Saturday, Pence and Chinese President Xi-Jinping presented opposing visions and even engaged in a verbal trade, with the US diplomat threatening Beijing with yet more tariffs.

“We've put tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods and that number could more than double," Pence said. "We hope for better, but the United States will not change course until China changes its ways."

For his part, Chinese President Xi Jinping who addressed the gathering before Pence, denounced the US administration’s “America First" trade protectionism, saying global trade rules should not be applied "with double standards or selfish agendas.”

He urged the world to "say no to protectionism and unilateralism," warning it was a "short-sighted approach" that was "doomed to failure.”

Xi also touched upon Beijing’s multi-billion dollar project in Papua New Guinea saying “China has made a strategic decision to always stand together with fellow developing countries. China is committed to strengthening trust and commitment with PNG.”

China has injected at least $5.9 billion of infrastructure spending into the island since 2011.

‘Trade war could escalate into Cold War’
In the meantime, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned that the trade dispute between Beijing and Washington could escalate into a fresh Cold War.

Speaking at a conference in the French capital Paris on the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) future, Maire warned that there is a real risk" that the trade dispute triggers a Cold War between China and the United States.

To counter such a threat, the French minister urged the WTO to reform by resolving its “consensus paralysis” on decision-making and by enforcing international trade rules.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has claimed that China’s rise as an exporting powerhouse has hurt US workers and manufacturing and has ordered tariffs on $250 billion in imports from China.

He has also been criticizing China’s huge trade surplus with the United States and has demanded that Beijing reduce it.
Disagreement between the two powers, however, has deepened with both sides imposing tariffs on each other’s goods in recent months.

Trump, who seems to be backtracking from his stance, said on Friday that there might be no more tariffs on Chinese goods; since Beijing has sent a list of steps it was willing to take to resolve trade disputes with Washington.“I think a deal will be made," Trump said. "We'll find out very soon."

China insists that Washington must pursue mutual interests of the two counties in trade talks between them.

Last month, Chinese Foreign Ministry said if the US was not willing to promote win-win cooperation with China, then China would continue with its reforms and develop itself. Beijing said there was no winner in a trade war and that cooperation was the only correct choice.