28 Aug 2006

PNG's Somare critical of Australian military boost

3:20 pm on 28 August 2006

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister says Australia's army expansion will undermine his country's sovereignty.

Sir Michael Somare went on the attack after the Australian government announced a significant boost to its army and federal police force in the Asia-Pacific area.

Australia has announced it will put an extra 400 police on standby for deployment to international trouble spots and boost its military numbers by 2,600.

Prime Minister John Howard says Australia needs to maintain stability in the region, pointing to potential problems in PNG, Solomon Islands, East Timor and Vanuatu.

But Sir Michael says the move is an attempt to undermine PNG's sovereignty, and if the country needs help, it'll ask for it.

"We're not going to allow our people to be undermined. We've trained people and most of our people are trained in Australia anyway. We don't see the reason why we should have Australians coming up here again to take over the reigns of the independent country. These are concerns that all of the Pacific Islands have."

Sir Michael says no country has the right to make unilateral decisions affecting the Pacific region.