Modi, Blinken to meet Pacific Island leaders in Papua New Guinea

Modi, Blinken to meet Pacific Island leaders in Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken have arrived in Papua New Guinea ahead of meetings with Pacific Island leaders to discuss trade, climate change and regional security on Monday (May 22).

Modi, who was met at the airport on Sunday evening by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, will hold a bilateral meeting on Monday morning, before hosting a regional summit with 14 Pacific Island leaders.

Blinken is expected to sign a Defence Cooperation Agreement between the United States and Papua New Guinea, and also hold a Pacific Island leaders meeting in the afternoon.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Vanuatu Prime Minister Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau, and New Caledonia President Louis Mapou were among the Pacific island leaders to arrive on Sunday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Australia’s Pacific Minister Pat Conroy will also join the meetings.

Police Commissioner David Manning said there was a heavy police and military presence around the capital Port Moresby with roads blocked, and defence patrol boats in the water around the meeting venue, for the biggest assembly of international leaders in the country since a 2018 APEC summit.

Blinken will sign a Defence Cooperation Agreement and Ship Riders Pact, allowing US Coast Guard vessels with PNG officials aboard to patrol its exclusive economic zone, Papua New Guinea’s government said in a statement on Monday.

The United States Commander for the Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquino, also arrived on Sunday evening, local media reported.

The defence agreement will boost Papua New Guinea’s defence infrastructure and capability after decades of neglect, the Papua New Guinea government said earlier.

China, a major provider of infrastructure to the Pacific Islands in recent years, signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands last year, prompting concern from the United States and its allies over Beijing’s intentions in a region covering vital sea lanes.