APSN Banner

Indonesia, Papua New Guinea affirm defence cooperation amid regional tensions

Jakarta Post - May 10, 2024

Yvette Tanamal, Jakarta – Indonesia reiterated its commitment to strengthening ties with Papua New Guinea on Wednesday in a "historic" meeting in Jayapura that emphasized defense cooperation with the Pacific Island nation amid unabating geopolitical tensions in the region.

PNG is a "natural" and "critical partner for Indonesia" in its engagement with Pacific Island countries, said Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi following her Wednesday meeting with her PNG counterpart Justin Tkatchenko for the fourth Jakarta-Port Moresby Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC).

At the event, Retno renewed Indonesia's commitment to engaging with PNG, highlighting the two countries' interest in "working together to maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region".

Indonesia and PNG also signed an agreement for long-term bilateral development cooperation, as well as another for training programs for diplomats from Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) countries, such as PNG.

Political and defense cooperation was the focus of the Jayapura talks, with Retno and Tkatchenko welcoming the long-awaited implementation of Indonesia-Papua New Guinea Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA).

The DCA was signed by the two countries in 2010 but only came into effect this year after the PNG parliament ratified it in late February. Indonesia ratified the pact in 2012.

The agreement seeks to strengthen the ties between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the PNG Defense Force, including through the exchange of personnel for training, intelligence cooperation and logistical support.

"As two neighboring countries that share a vast border, this agreement is critical to strengthen our security amid the geopolitical dynamics in our region," Retno said on Wednesday.

Tkatchenko, meanwhile, said, "This DCA has been gathering dust on the shelves for over 10 years. Now, we're going to see an increase in our defense cooperation; on our borders, defense departments and governments, for the security of our people."

"And that's very, very important going forward," he noted.

For the first time, the Joint Ministerial Commission meeting was held in Jayapura, a choice of location dubbed "historic" by both ministers for its significance to the two countries.

Jayapura is the capital of Papua province and the nearest town to the Skouw border crossing into PNG, the main border post along the 760-kilometer border separating Indonesia and PNG.

The meeting also came amid continuing geopolitical tensions in the region sparked by the rivalry between the United States and China that have put Southeast Asian and Pacific Island nations in a precarious situation amid their bids to remain neutral.

Last year, PNG signed a defense cooperation pact with the US that reportedly allowed US military personnel to move freely within its territory and waters.

And just two weeks ago, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Port Moresby for talks with Tkatchenko, during which the Chinese diplomat said that Pacific Island countries were not "the backyard of any major countries".

Indonesia, among the biggest countries in the region, has in recent years been intensifying its engagement with Pacific Island countries, a move that analysts say is key to maintaining regional security and ensuring Jakarta's domestic interests.

In addition to inviting members of the MSG and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) to various international forums, Jakarta has also been increasing its investment in the region through various projects including in infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries.

This year, at least four Indonesian projects have been set for PNG, said Retno: the modernization of Port Moresby Hospital, the revitalization of several pieces of public infrastructure, scholarships and diplomatic training programs for PNG diplomats.

"Indonesia puts high importance on good relations with Pacific nations," Retno said. "I thank the PNG government for their steadfast commitment to supporting Indonesia's engagement in the MSG and PIF."

Tkatchenko, meanwhile, said, "I want to reassure Foreign Minister [Retno] of the importance PNG places on its bilateral relations with Indonesia. That friendship should be built on trust."

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesia-papua-new-guinea-affirm-defence-cooperation-amid-regional-tensions