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US military wins ‘unimpeded’ access to PNG bases

PORT MORESBY (AFP) – The United States (US) military can develop and operate out of bases in Papua New Guinea, according to a landmark security pact.

The full text of the deal was tabled in Papua New Guinea’s Parliament on Wednesday evening and obtained by AFP, shedding light on details that have been closely guarded since the pact was inked in May.

With Papua New Guinea’s agreement, the US will be able to station troops and vessels at six key ports and airports, including Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island and facilities in the capital Port Moresby.

Washington would have “unimpeded access” to the sites to “pre-position equipment, supplies and materiel”, and have “exclusive use” of some zones, where development and “construction activities” could be carried out.

The agreement opens the door to Washington establishing a new military footprint at a strategically prized deep-water port, at a time of growing rivalry in the region.

Perched at the southwest edge of the Pacific Ocean, Lombrum has in the past been used as a garrison for British, German, Japanese, Australian and US troops.

During World War II it was one of the largest US bases in the Pacific, with 200 ships at anchor, including six battleships and 20 aircraft carriers that were used to retake the Philippines from Japan.