Protests against defense pact with U.S. erupt across Papua New Guinea

Protests erupted in several universities across Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Monday morning against a possible defense cooperation pact to be signed between the United States and the island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.

Students from the University of Papua New Guinea, the University of Goroka and the PNG University of Technology staged the protests early in the morning, the local Wepio Media Agency reported.

Students at the University of Papua New Guinea were asking why PNG, which always observes a friends-to-all and enemy-to-none principle, would sign a defense pact.

They also requested that the agreement not be signed until the PNG people know what the country is signing.

The focus must not be on security treaties when the country is not at war with anyone, said the students, adding that as a developing country, PNG needs beneficial economic treaties and agreements instead.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and PNG Prime Minister James Marape were scheduled to sign the pact and a maritime security agreement during Blinken's visit to the capital of PNG, Port Moresby, on Sunday and Monday, said a CNN report.

Before that, an alleged draft copy of the defense cooperation agreement that would potentially allow a substantial U.S. military presence in PNG was leaked. But Marape said the agreement would not give the United States any "exclusive" rights to PNG facilities.

(Cover: A man sits in front of the U.S. embassy in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, May 19, 2023. /CFP)

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