Members of the Australian Defence Force conduct a 21 gun salute during a Proclamation of Accession ceremony for Britain's King Charles III at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Sept 11, 2022. (MICK TSIKAS / POOL / AFP)
SYDNEY – Australia wants to strike an "ambitious" security treaty with neighbor Papua New Guinea that will see navy, airforce and army personnel from each nation working alongside each other more often, Defense Minister Richard Marles said in Port Moresby on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters alongside Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape on Thursday, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said Australia wanted to elevate its security cooperation with PNG to the status of a bilateral treaty as soon as possible
Marles's first visit to Papua New Guinea comes after the United States said at a White House summit last month it would start talks on a defense cooperation agreement with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape's government.
Speaking to reporters alongside Marape on Thursday, Marles said Australia wanted to elevate its security cooperation with Papua New Guinea to the status of a bilateral treaty as soon as possible.
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"The defense relationship is one of the strengths of the bilateral relationship but this is really playing to that strength," he said, adding most officers of the Papua New Guinea defense force already undertake some training in Australia.
A treaty would seek to make defense cooperation "even closer, where we are having defense personnel working alongside each other more" across maritime, aviation and army, he said.
The bilateral defense talks had a "very ambitious agenda", he said.
Australia's new Labor government pledged in the May national election to set up a defense school to train Pacific island militaries.
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Papua New Guinea proposed a security treaty with Australia during Foreign Minister Penny Wong's visit in August.