The Minister for Foreign Affairs is heading to Papua New Guinea for meetings as the possibility of a new security deal with the country surfaces, following widespread criticism of an earlier deal between PNG and China.
Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today she would fly to Port Moresby on Monday for a four day visit to hold face to face meetings, and visit development projects.
The trip follows a visit to PNG this week by Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong.
Earlier this week, Papua New Guinea Minister for Foreign Affairs Justin Tkatchenko made the surprise revelation his country had began very early discussions with Australia about a possible new security treaty, which Tkatchenko said New Zealand could potentially become part of.
The prospect of a new deal adds to diplomatic churn resulting from a surprise security deal struck between China and the Solomon Islands in March, the exact contents of which have not been revealed. Political figures from the USA, Australia and New Zealand have expressed concern about that deal (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/top/465630/solomon-islands-china-security-deal-needs-scrutiny-mahuta including Mahuta), as well as groups within PNG.
As New Zealand continued to reconnect with the world as restrictions to combat the pandemic eased: "It is vital we invest time and effort into strengthening our ties with partners," Mahuta said.
"This has, and continues to be, a challenging time for Papua New Guinea and Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa [the Pacific]. With the ongoing impacts of Covid-19, climate change, and an increasingly complex security environment, the need to support and build resilience is more important than ever."
"New Zealand remains committed to working alongside Papua New Guinea, to ensure a more resilient, stable and prosperous Pacific region, for the benefit of all who are part of our Blue Pacific Continent," Mahuta said.
"Aotearoa New Zealand and Papua New Guinea share a warm and long-standing relationship and I look forward to reaffirming this in person with Prime Minister James Marape and the new Minister of Foreign Affairs Justin Tkatchenko," Mahuta said,
She planned to meet with other politicians and community leaders, during the visit, and was scheduled to visit agriculture projects supported by New Zealand at Mt Hagan.
And would also visit a Political Leadership Academy for Women meeting, where the topics of gender equality and empowerment for women and girls would be discussed.
"Access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a critical component of achieving sustainable development goals and many of our Pacific whanaunga need sustainable investment to do so. I look forward to discussing this further with NGOs and visiting health development initiatives," Mahuta said.
She planned to return from Papua New Guinea on Thursday 8 September.