"Our traditional partners have always been Australia when it comes to trade, economics, security and we will continue to do so to make sure we have a safe region” - Justin Tkatchenko
SYDNEY - Australia wants the closest possible relationship with Papua New Guinea, said foreign minister Penny Wong, on her first official visit to the country amid competition with China for influence.
PNG had previously turned down a Chinese offer to redevelop a naval base and Canberra is funding Telstra's acquisition of PNG's biggest mobile provider, Digicel, to counter growing Chinese influence in the Pacific Islands.
In June, PNG and China agreed to deepen cooperation in energy, fisheries, communications and health during a visit by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.
Senator Wong said in Port Moresby on Monday that PNG and Australia had traded for thousands of years and should continue to have the "closest possible relationship".
"Our futures are tied together," she added.
PNG's new foreign affairs minister, Justin Tkatchenko, said "our traditional partners have always been Australia when it comes to trade, economics, security and we will continue to do so ... to make sure we have a safe region”.
On Monday, Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese told the National Press Club in Canberra he will host a visit by Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare and East Timor president Jose Ramos Horta "in the coming period”.
The Solomon Islands has had a tense relationship with the Australia and the United States since striking a security pact with China in May.
A US Coast Guard vessel was recently unable to make a routine port call because the Solomon Islands government did not respond to a request for it to refuel and provision.
The Solomons’ government did not immediately answer a Reuters request for comment.