Security Challenges
Volume 10, No.2 (2014)

Security in Papua New Guinea - The Military and Diplomatic Dimensions

Papua New Guinea is embedded in a regional strategic order dominated by the United States and Australia. The Government of Papua New Guinea recognises the country’s security shortcomings and is taking action to remedy them. It plans to more than double the size of the PNG Defence Force to 5,000 regular and reserve personnel by 2017. The core tasks of the PNG Defence Force are to defend PNG against attack and maintain the integrity of its sovereign land, air and maritime borders; to provide civil emergency assistance in security, humanitarian and disaster relief; to engage in nation building; and to participate in international operations in both war zones and humanitarian operations. PNG is now sending peacekeepers to UN operations in Sudan and South Sudan. Regionally, the PNGDF has emerged with a good reputation after ten years with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. Borders present problems. Both the PNG-Indonesia border and the PNG-Australia border require continuing bilateral cooperation. The Pan-Melanesianism of the Melanesian Spearhead Group poses difficulties for PNG in its relations with Indonesia. Australia matters most as a defence partner for PNG, but the Manus asylum seeker processing centre is undermining Australia’s advocacy of maintaining high standards in delivering security. The military mood is buoyant in PNG, but PNG’s security problems are fundamentally developmental and political and will not be solved quickly.

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