Change of PNG leadership and US plans for the region
High-level diplomacy between Australia and Papua New Guinea in late July has shown the continued subservience of US political and military leaders to US imperialism’s visions for the region.
Aggressive US-led moves to heighten tensions with China may result in Australia being dragged into regional hostilities together with conflicts elsewhere.
Between 21 and 26 July incoming PNG Prime Minister James Marape, accompanied by several government ministers, was hosted by Canberra for high-level diplomatic meetings with Australia. Media coverage was rather limited, although meetings included 'defence and security' and the need to 'boost trade and investment'. (1)
Later media releases also specified Australian assistance for PNG to develop infrastructure projects including electrical generation projects. (2)
Business interests and neo-colonial relations between Australia and PNG also included serious concerns about the future prospects of a huge $16 billion liquefied natural gas deal involving ASX-listed Oil Search, where Australian business-interests have been regarded as threatened by political instability in PNG. (3)
A factor in discussions between PNG and Australia has been the growing influence within Melanesia and the South Pacific of Chinese social-imperialism (“socialism in words, imperialism in deeds”).
PM Marape being a 'guest of government' by Australia, coincided with the release of information concerning a 473-page report about regional defence and security considerations. (4) The report revealed Australian military planners were forming a new expeditionary training force 'to work with key regional neighbours, including PNG, Fiji and Vanuatu'. (5) Responsibility for the new force has been given to the ADF First Division, based in Brisbane.
The new force would 'conduct a range of activities, such as exercises and operations with the Pacific security forces and key agencies to build inter-operability with our partners'. (6) “Interoperability” means everyone being able to work under the command and direction of the US imperialists. And, 'the Pacific Support Force will employ a mobile training team approach to strengthen capacity, resilience and inter-operability throughout the region in areas such as security operations'. (7)
Countries across the South Pacific have various levels of police and/or local military and maritime surveillance capacity, and as a result, defence provision for some is supplied by either or both of Australia and New Zealand.
It is also important to note that Pine Gap is linked in an arc that also includes sensitive US intelligence facilities on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and a major base on Guam in Micronesia. Both have been recently developed into military hubs, coinciding with Darwin Harbour as a support centre with large-scale US troop rotations for regional deployment. (8)
In recent times, however, the rise of China across the region has provided Pacific Island political leaders with options and choices. Official media releases from Canberra note the development has meant 'the Pacific Islands, with broader choice of aid partners, no longer need to depend on Australia'. (9) It has also led some observers to question whether Australia can continue to hold sway with the South Pacific countries into the longer-term future. The balance of forces across the wider region is turning at a rate where Canberra has fewer and fewer realistic diplomatic options. Military options, therefore, become an issue.
It is with these considerations in mind that Australia has established the Lombrum military facilities on Manus Island (pictured) together with the Black Rock Naval facility in Fiji. (10) While both facilities appear to be concerned with rapid deployment capability into the Pacific, they strengthen the role of Australian state agencies for domestic purposes in countries of widespread social division along ethnic lines.
While a great deal of emphasis has been placed upon the role of the Trump administration in recent times and their aggressive diplomatic position toward China, the policies rest upon longer-term military planning. During the late 1990s it was noted the US military planners were moving away from the traditional European focus toward the Asia-Pacific region. The region was the most dynamic within the newly globalised economy. Assessments at the time concluded with the statement 'the Pentagon is looking at Asia as the most likely arena for future military conflict, or at least competition'. (11)
While the publication in 2000 of the US Joint Vision 2020 military assessment did not specifically identify China, a core planning document of the Joint Chiefs of Staff listed 'China as a potential future adversary'. (12)
It is, therefore, important to recognise the strategic significance of Australia for regional US-led military operations; the so-called alliance remains primarily concerned with 'US interests'.
Australia is a strategic hub for US-led regional operations with far-reaching implications: localised intelligence operations and their reliance upon Australian counterparts rest, in turn, on linkage into broader US-led facilities; military exercises can quickly turn into real-war scenarios.
The US Joint Vision 2020 publication fits neatly with Australian military planning and the Howard Government’s Defence White Paper (2000) which identified four key areas of concern with US-led considerations:
As the 20-year planning embedded in these documents is now reaching fruition it is possible to observe how successive Australian political leaders have complied with US-led military planning, across the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere in the Middle East and Afghanistan; the recent high-level diplomacy between Australia and PNG was but one part of a much bigger global plan by the Pentagon.
Australia has already been drawn into military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan to defend and secure 'US interests' with the same military planning.
Whether we will get drawn into similar future operations in the South Pacific remains to be seen. Present Australian political and military leaders continually stress how they are attempting to counter China, using aggressive diplomacy within US-led military planning.
We need an independent foreign policy!
1. PNG leader to visit Australia, Reuters, 16 July 2019.
2. ScoMo courts PNG with $250 m power pledge in China pushback, Australian, 23 July 2019.
3. PNG to vote on new PM as O'Neill bows out, Australian, 30 May 2019.
4. Australia sets up force for Pacific, Australian, 23 July 2019.
8. US intensifies military presence in Indo-Pacific, Global Times, 24 July 2018.
9. Is this the end of a beautiful Pacific Islands relationship? The Weekend Australian, 13-14 July 2019.
10. Morrison seeks to turn the tide of neighbourly opinion, Australian, 5 June 2019; and, Editorial, Strategic policy compass is set in the right direction, Australian, 3 June 2019.
11. Asia moves to forefront of Pentagon planning, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 1-7 June 2000.
13. Website: The end of the Defence of Australia; and https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1516/DefendAust/2000