Papua New Guinea
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France wants free and open Indo Pacific

BY LAWRANCE FONG

French President Emmanuel Macron says his country stands for an Indo-Pacific that is free, open and peaceful.

And he plans to do that by developing military and security agreements with PNG and other Pacific countries starting next year.

His country, a nuclear power and economic giant which has a sizeable territorial interest in the Pacific region, aims to do that by addressing military, security and climate change challenges. France already has a Status of Forces Agreement with PNG, signed last year.

He said these when addressing the media last Friday following a series of bilateral talks and engagements in Port Moresby with PNG Prime Minister James Marape and other leaders.

“This visit corresponds to two major objectives of France. The first is our Indo-Pacific strategy launched six years ago in which our overseas territories are fully engaged to open a path in this region that allows for an Indo-Pacific space that is free and in peace and it is on this pathway that France is orientating itself with two main objectives – climate change and the strategic and military security,” Mr Macron said.

“The second major objective that takes all its meaning by visiting you, it is to build a new international consensus that reconciles the fight against poverty and our fight against climate change and its impact on protecting our biodiversity.

“These two strategies concur perfectly and we have put in place through our bilateral plan. We have together built some concrete elements that illustrate this double strategy.

“Defence and security is at the heart of this Indo-Pacific strategy. Regarding defence and security and regarding defence more specifically, we have signed an agreement (with PNG), the Status of Forces Agreement last year.

“We have agreed to identify new areas of cooperation during our next visit for the South Pacific ministerial meeting that France will host next December in Noumea.

“Our minister for armed forces will be present and bring together all the ministers for defence in the South Pacific to illustrate fully our engagement and our willingness to have new agreements with the rest of the countries in our region.

“This is consistent with the investment that we have agreed to put forward in New Caledonia with our armed forces, which I announced two days ago.

“The objective of the Indo-Pacific strategy is not to be in competition.

We can be ambitious whilst being realistic and we are. But what is the basis of this strategy? First, it is to reinvent.
“The role is how we protect our overseas territories of the Pacific. We do it for us – France – through New Caledonia and French Polynesia and Futuna, the Antarctic territories. We exist in the Indo-Pacific strategy. We have 1.5 million of our people living in this region.
“We have thousands of our army forces every year who are in these operations and there are more and more every year. So we are here. Over the past decade we’ve asked these overseas territories to look to Paris. We are here and looking at this region. First we are doing it for us. This is the first point.
“The second point – and I believe this is France’s objective – is not to play competition, but to say that what we are carrying can be done through the strategy that the Prime Minister (James Marape) has just evoked – co-existence.
“So our Indo-Pacific strategy is to also have partnerships that are totally equitable with the countries in the region, as equals that we are.”