Posted by : Posted on : 24-Jul-2019

Australia already enhancing its security, humanitarian and law and order roles with Solomons neighbours.

Early in January this year, Vanuatu's Foreign Minister rather poured cold water on an Australian request for a security treaty between the two nations.

Ralph Regenvanu's comments come ahead of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's visit

The Daily Post reported that Australian officials had asked for a treaty during Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai's visit to Canberra last year.

Mr Reganvanu said there would be no prospect of a change in Vanuatu's 'Non-Aligned' status.

The foreign minister later clarified that this stance was not aimed specifically at Australia.

He said Vanuatu was not interested in an exclusive security treaty with any one country.

Mr Reganvanu said a defence agreement would affect Vanuatu's 'Non-Aligned' status.

But that didn't appear to rule out an agreement dealing with internal security, law and order, or humanitarian deployments.

Mr Regenvanu made it clear that there were many areas that the two countries could improve cooperation, coordination and understanding...

In March Papua New Guinea and Australia signed a memorandum of understanding regarding their joint plans to develop a naval base on PNG's Manus Island.

The Lombrum Joint Initiative was signed in Canberra by Australian and Papua New Guinea defence officials, and the heads of their respective defence forces.

It formalised the joint announcement by the two countries prime ministers Peter O'Neill and Scott Morrison in November last year.

At the APEC Leaders summit in PNG last November, the US also indicated it would join the initiative.

However, after the signing, PNG's Defence Secretary Trevor Meauri said the MoU would help guide the collaboration between the PNG and Australia to redevelop facilities at Manus' Lombrum naval base.

He said the initiative would increase interoperability between the two defence forces and provide greater opportunities for training and joint activities.

Mr Meauri said it would also enhance PNG Defence Force capability to protect PNG's borders and maritime resources through a broad program of mentoring, tailored training, and infrastructure development.

After his election as Australia’s Prime Minister this year, Scott Morrison was reportedly being urged at home to improve relations with Pacific neighbours with a suit of policies and funding initiatives...

A month later, Australia's foreign minister Marise Payne has announced plans to strengthen the relationship with Fiji in defence, trade, education and sports.

In a speech to the Press Club in Suva she said both countries were on track to finalise a new agreement to be signed when the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama visited Canberra .

She said Australia would soon establish the infrastructure financing facility to fund climate change resilient developments, announced in November last year.

Ms Payne said the Australian government would continue its climate change work by "supporting our Pacific families' own efforts".

She said the government had given out two thirds of its $AU300m climate change assistance package.

The minister acknowledged Fijian government leadership in climate change diplomacy calling the issue a "potential disruptor of political and economic security" in the region.

Ms Payne visited the Fiji military's Black Rock camp in Nadi, which Australia is helping to fund.

She said the "state of the art, world class place of learning for peacekeepers" was being steadily redeveloped.

It was actually in April this year that the Fiji and Australian governments signed a deal that  would formalises their cooperation in the redevelopment of Fiji's Blackrock military training centre.

The aim of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) was to transform Blackrock into a regional hub for police and peacekeeping training and pre-deployment preparation.

In a joint statement, the countries said the redevelopment of Blackrock would enhance Fiji's capacity for global peacekeeping operations and its ability to respond to natural disasters in the region.

Fiji and Australia's Defence partnership is seen as integral to contributing to enhanced security capability in the Pacific region through training, maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations.

Work on the Fiji's Blackrock military training centre is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Fiji's defence minister Inia Seruiratu has recently confirmed the centre will be used by Fiji and the region for the training of peacekeepers, and training for humanitarian and disaster relief, including use of the facility by the Fiji police.

It might be recalled, also, in August of last year, Australia and Fiji had announced a regional hub for police and peacekeeping training in Fiji

A statement made at that time said. Australian support would ensure the facility delivered "enhanced capability development and stronger interoperability between the Australian Defence Force and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.”

Today, Wednesday) as I reported earlier, Australia is pushing to secure its status as the security partner of choice for Pacific nations, forming a new expeditionary training force to work with key regional neighbours, including Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu.

 The move to ramp up military support to Pacific neighbours comes as China lifts its presence in the region.

The new Pacific force was revealed in a Defence brief, obtained by the Australian under freedom of information laws.

The heavily redacted briefing, known as the Defence "Blue Book", also revealed the ADF is "considering options for a dedicated vessel" to support increased engagement with regional navies.

It said the ADF was in the "very early stages of scoping options" for the proposed Pacific support vessel.”

The Blue Book said the ADF would consult Pacific nations on their military training needs, but packages could include engineering, communications, surveillance, maritime security and medical training.

Source of all news reports -  Radio New Zealand.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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