Australian government planning to reopen strategic Papua New Guinea naval base
21 September 2018
The government of recently-installed Prime Minister Scott Morrison is working on plans with the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government to develop a joint naval base on PNG’s Manus Island that would host Australian and US warships.
The return of the Australian and US navies to Manus Island would be a significant preparation for a US-led war against China. Because of its strategic location in the Pacific Ocean, several hundred kilometres north of PNG’s main island, Manus is important for plans to cut China’s access to key trade routes.
During World War II, Manus became a major US naval and air base, pivotal to the final stages of the war against Japan. Before the US invasion of the Philippines in late 1944, more than 800 ships were in the Manus Island harbour. Installations included wharves and floating docks, four airfields, living quarters for 150,000 troops, a 3,000-bed hospital, fuel depots, supply stores and repair workshops.
After World War II, Australia took possession of the deep-water port for as long as PNG remained an Australian colony, gradually running down the facility until handing it over when the territory’s formal independence was granted in 1975. Since 2001, Australian governments have maintained a hold over Manus Island as a site for detaining hundreds of refugees barred from reaching Australia.
According to yesterday’s Australian, ousted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill discussed the proposed transformation of PNG’s Lombrum Naval Base at a July 11 meeting in Brisbane. After a subsequent “scoping mission” by Australian defence officials, O’Neill reportedly wrote to Turnbull to formally express…