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Prospect of major PNG, China security pact hosed down

Dominic Giannini -

While it's too early to tell where security talks between Papua New Guinea and China will go, it's unlikely to result in a major pact that would shake the region, one expert says.

PNG Foreign Minister Justin Tkachenko revealed Port Moresby and Beijing were in talks about a potential policing deal just weeks after riots broke out in the Pacific nation.

A policing deal China signed with the Solomons caused a stir in the region as Beijing and Washington jostled for influence.

But it's unlikely a similar pact would be signed as the PNG government was more committed to maintaining longstanding partnerships with Australia, New Zealand and the US, Professor Anthony Regan said.

"But in the wake of all that happened in Port Moresby, there's no surprise there's interest in anything that can help build capacity in the security apparatus," the Pacific expert who spent two decades in PNG told AAP.

"In general in the Pacific, there is a feeling there should be some freedom to seek assistance from multiple sources without seriously damaging longstanding relationships.

"But I doubt very much they'll be rushing into anything with China."

China approached PNG in September and talks resumed last week after deadly riots, Reuters reported.

"It is still in early stages of negotiation with our commissioner of police and our minister of internal security," Mr Tkachenko said.

"They have offered it to us, but we have not accepted it at this point in time."

Australia's opposition is heaping pressure on the government to ensure it remains PNG's top security partner.

Labor attacked the former coalition government ahead of the last federal election when the Solomons signed the policing agreement with China.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham wants the same scrutiny applied now Labor is in government.

"It is up to (Foreign Minister) Penny Wong to live up to the standards she applied to others pre-election, such as her claims that the Solomons Island security pact could have been stopped," he said.

"Whilst respecting their sovereignty, it is both logical and essential that Australia remains PNG's security partner of choice."

PNG had no closer friend than Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

"We are the security partner of choice for PNG as we are for most of the countries in the Pacific," he said.

"We're family and we'll continue to engage."

PNG Prime Minister James Marape will visit Australia and address a joint sitting of parliament when it resumes next week.

Mr Albanese and Mr Marape inked a deal for $200 million to help train PNG police as the Pacific nation struggles with unrest.

Each nation can ask for key security-related information and developments that are likely to affect the other under the legally binding pact.

"We will support the government in whatever actions they're taking to make sure that the relationship is consolidated," Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said.

Dominic Giannini - AAP


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