English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Is U.S. eyeing a naval base in Papua New Guinea to counter China in the Indo-Pacific?

Placid Ral island in Papua New Guinea

In a bid to counter Chinese muscle flexing in the Indo-Pacific region, the United States is on track to sign a “defence cooperation” agreement with Papua New Guinea, a Pacific Island nation, located not far from Guam, a key American naval base.

The Asia Nikkei is reporting that the agreement potentially allowing American troops access to the island nation’s ports and airports, could be signed later this month.

U.S. President Joe Biden is slated to travel to Papua New Guinea after the three-day G-7 summit in Hiroshima, which begins on May 19.

The daily points out that the agreement will allow US troops to use certain facilities and areas in Papua New Guinea. Some of the locations on the radar include Momote Airport, Jacksons International Airport, Nadzab Airport, Lombrum Naval Base, the Seaport of Lae and Port Moresby.

The US would preposition logistical elements including equipment, fuel and spare parts for use by military aircraft and ships during contingencies. Additional infrastructure may need to be built at the chosen sites, the report said.

The US initiative follows China’s inroads in the neighbouring Solomon Islands. In April 2022, the Chinese signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands, which are just across the Bougainville Strait from Papua New Guinea.

In terms of the big picture, the US, while creating a military opening in Papua New Guinea, is reinforcing its traditional island chain strategy to contain China, specifically the second island chain.

A relic of the Cold War, the island chain strategy was the brainchild of the former US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in the fifties. It sought to contain both the former Soviet Union and China by militarising three near-parallel island chains, running north to south, in the Pacific.

Papua New Guinea is located at the southern tip of second island chain, and includes Japan’s Ogasawara Islands and the U.S. territory of Guam.

In fact, the second island chain begins at Ogasawara Islands, heads towards Volcano islands, which are three Japanese-governed islands in Micronesia and heads further south towards Mariana islands that terminate in Guam. The second island chain ends at Papua New Guinea.

The US decision apparently follows the formation of the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) military grouping established in September 2021.

Under the AUKUS, Australia will dock nuclear powered submarines—a move to deter China. By establishing a possible naval facility in Papua New Guinea, the US may be taking the next steps of giving practical shape to AUKUS.

Also Read: China’s latest H-20 stealth bomber maybe unable to breach US island defences in the Indo-Pacific