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Australian fighter jets, warships to secure 'vibrant' PNG APEC

Australia will spend $130 million (US$92.8 million) deploying Super Hornet fighter jets, it’s largest warship HMAS Adelaide and elite special forces troops to help Papua New Guinea “deliver a vibrant, Pacific-style APEC” when leaders from 21-member economies gather in Port Moresby in November.

Government officials confirmed the “ballpark” cost of helping Papua New Guinea host more than 10,000 delegates for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which diplomats believe will help the nation “unlock its potential as a tourism superpower”.

“We are providing this assistance because, quite simply, they asked us to – as close friends and neighbours.”

New Zealand, the United States, China, Canada, Japan and Indonesia are among other APEC nations contributing to security and safety at the largest event Papua New Guinea has ever hosted.

In addition to 500 troops on the ground in Port Moresby, a further 1,500 Australian Defence Force personnel will help enforce a no-fly zone over the island nation from Australia - although officials stress there have been no specific threats to summit security.

Australia has helped the Papua New Guinea Defence Force “rehearse” counter-terrorism scenarios while firefighters from Queensland will also be on standby in Port Moresby during the gathering, crewing new firetrucks funded by China.

“Primary security of APEC venues, motorcades and delegations is wholly on Papua New Guinea, as it should be as the host nation.”

While Papua New Guinea’s Constabulary and Defence Force will lead summit security, it is understood Australian “advisors” will work alongside local authorities with Australian Federal Police and Army on standby as part of an Incident Response Group.

Security will be similar to that seen in Australia at the recent Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney.

As APEC hosts, Papua New Guinea will secure 500 meetings across the year, culminating with the Leaders’ Summit on November 17 and 18.

While most leaders – including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - will spend at least one night in the host nation, US Vice President Mike Pence is reportedly planning to stay in far north Queensland and commute back and forth to Papua New Guinea by plane for the duration of the summit.

It’s understood Australian officials “are highly encouraging all delegations to stay in Port Moresby” because they are highly confident about security and Papua New Guinea is enormously proud of its role as hosts.

Additional troops and federal police will be deployed in Far North Queensland to help safeguard the dozens of world leaders expected to transit through Australia on their journey to PNG.

Diplomats are also helping Papua New Guinea’s government “articulate and shape it’s policy agenda” for the summit, which Australia believes “is a good and positive opportunity for Papua New Guinea to show leadership on free trade and investment” – interpreted by some as an attempt to counter rising Chinese influence in the Pacific and beyond.

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