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Q: We can play this game too

1 year 47 weeks ago in  Relationships - China

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Manus Island will be transformed from the home of a detention centre to a joint Papua New Guinea-Australian naval base under an agreement struck by the prime ministers of both countries today.

The venture locks China out of the strategically significant deep water port at the Lombrum base at a time when Australian intelligence officials warn Beijing is seeking to develop Pacific ports to gain a military foothold in the region.

While Canberra won't publicly acknowledge strategic denial is a key reason driving the move, that is the way it will be read in Beijing and Washington.

Manus Island will be transformed into a Australian and PNG naval base. (AAP)

In a major foreign policy speech before the port agreement was signed, Scott Morrison acknowledged that jostling for supremacy between Australia's trading partner and its key ally would be the new normal.

"China is the country that is most changing the balance of power, sometimes in ways that challenge important US interests," the prime minister said.

"Inevitably, in the period ahead, we will be navigating a higher degree of US-China strategic competition."

The joint venture locks China out of a strategically important port. (AAP)

Mr Morrison said Australia wanted the strongest possible US commitment to the Indo-Pacific.

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"A strong America - centrally engaged in the affairs of our region - is critical to Australia's national interests," he said.

But Mr Morrison said Australia should use its good relations with both powers to deescalate any conflicts that might arise.

"It is important that US-China relations do not become defined by confrontation," he said.

Some astute foreign policy observers believe Australia has dropped the ball in the Pacific, as China lifted its spending and increased its influence in the region.

PNG's Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was illegal. (AAP)

Mr Morrison clearly hopes to rectify that, saying the Pacific was "one of my highest foreign policy priorities, because this is where we live".

"This is a relationship that I want to see rise to a new level of respect, partnership, familiarity and appreciation," he said.

"I want us to do better.

"I want to set right how we engage with our Pacific family - our Vanua, our Whanau.

"I will not be taking our Pacific family for granted."

The commitment to the islands of the Pacific is now a bi-partisan project with Opposition leader Bill Shorten outlining his Pacific doctrine on Monday.

"A Labor Government will put the Pacific front and centre in our regional foreign policy," Mr Shorten said.

"We're not going to forfeit the Pacific because we didn't turn up."

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1 year 47 weeks ago
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APEC summit: Australia and the United States partnering for Manus Island naval base


7:20pm Nov 17, 2018

Play Video

Scott Morrison enters battle between China and America

1 / 20


The United States will join Australia in expanding a deep-water naval base on Manus Island into a key staging point into Asia.

The Lombrum naval base will be expanded to host Australian and US naval ships as part of a deal signed with Papua New Guinea.

The base gives the United States another deep-water port close to the contested South China Sea.

The United States and Australia will partner for the extension of a naval base on Manus Island, in a move that could anger China. (AAP)

Australia has been working on the facility with PNG for some time but US Vice President Mike Pence announced his country's involvement in a speech at an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Port Moresby on Saturday.

"Today it is my privilege to announce that the US will partner with PNG and Australia on their joint initiative on Manus Island," Mr Pence said.

The details of how much money Australia is paying for the base and how many ships will be stationed there are still under wraps.

Mr Pence's announcement also came before a bilateral meeting was held with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Mr Pence announced the partnership at the APEC summit, but Mr Morrison said Australia will not seek to choose sides between China and the US amid growing tensions. (AAP)

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"All the details we'll be working though in the time ahead and the investments that we're making," Mr Morrison told reporters in PNG.

"But the key thing here is the PNG government has invited us to participate at Manus Island in the Lombrum initiative and they've invited the United States to do the same thing, and so we're pleased to be working together."

In his first major international speech, the Prime Minister hinted to the APEC summit that Australia may yet play a greater role in the region.

"We see ourselves as part of a family in the Pacific," he said.

Despite that, Mr Morrison has said Australia will not take sides between the US and China amid increasing tensions.

Defence officials recently said they had been looking at ways to expand the deep water port facility.

The base is seen as a potential counter to China's rising influence in the contested South China Sea, where China has militarised previously unclaimed islands.

With AAP.

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1 year 44 weeks ago
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The deepening rift between China and the United States over trade has spilled into a major international summit, with Australia caught in the middle.

The two superpowers could not agree on what to say in the official communique from Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Port Moresby today.

Instead meeting chair Papua New Guinea was forced into announcing the broad consensus of the meeting, rather than the usual official statement.

It's understood China and the US could not agree on language about reforms to the World Trade Organisation, and China opposed levelling the playing field against state-owned enterprises.

Vice-President Mike Pence is representing the US at APEC. (AAP)China's President Xi Jinping. (AAP)

Australia was walking a fine line between its largest trading partner and its long-time security ally at the summit, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison played down suggestions relations are fractured.

"I think there is a lot more pragmatism going on here than people have been prepared to acknowledge in the commentary," Mr Morrison told reporters in Port Moresby.

"There's a lot of movement under the water."

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China and the US traded verbal blows yesterday in keynote speeches, with the US urging countries not to sign up for huge foreign debts, and China promising there was no hidden agenda with its infrastructure program.

Chinese officials also reportedly stormed into PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato's office yesterday demanding he change the wording of an official communique, which he refused to change.

Scott Morrison meets locals at the University of Papua New Guinea. (AAP)

Mr Morrison said the trade war between China and US was hurting global economic growth, but he believed both sides wanted to find a resolution.

"I think they're fully aware, because these things also impact their economies," he said.

Australia and the US will jointly host a naval base on Manus Island, creating a new staging point into the contested South China Sea.

Mr Morrison would not confirm how much the expanded Lombrum naval base would cost, but said Australia was there at the invitation of the PNG government.

He had a brief but "warm" meeting with President Xi Jinping last night, but the naval base did not come up.

"We were focused on our relationship and what we were doing together," Mr Morrison said.

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1 year 44 weeks ago
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A: Going to HK would be the best bet I reckon, especially if you were loo
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