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Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanes

AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Did Papua New Guinea just pick a side?

The Australian government on Thursday signed a security pact with its nearest neighbor, Papua New Guinea (aka PNG) that strengthens its – and America’s – position as a primary security partner in a region where China’s influence is rising.

The agreement was finalized six months later than initially scheduled, primarily because PNG harbored reservations about being perceived as favoring one side over another. During this delay, China actively sought PNG's participation in a comprehensive security pact involving nine other Pacific Island nations, though the initiative eventually collapsed. Despite having entered into a defense agreement with the United States in May, PNG asserts that it remains impartial and has not aligned itself with any particular side.

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