Australian troops in PNG for APEC

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Australian Special Forces soldiers have quietly been deployed to Papua New Guinea before the APEC meeting of world leaders.

The ABC reported the elite Australian Army personnel were “on the ground”, amid concerns PNG’s military was not adequately equipped to control the large event in November.

Among world leaders expected to attend the two day summit in Port Moresby are the US Vice President Mike Pence, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.

“We have Australian Army and Australian Special Forces assisting the PNGDF (Papua New Guinea Defence Force), making sure the counter-terrorism provision of services is first class,” a senior member of the Special Forces Command said.

“We’re standing ready to support PNGDF to secure the APEC meeting and help PNG showcase the country to the world,” he added.

Royal Australian Navy warships were also expected to be located off the PNG coast, as part of ‘Operation APEC Assist’, to protect cruise ships which will be used for temporary APEC accommodation.

Maritime security is a major focus for APEC security preparations, with Papua New Guinea’s maritime policing capabilities considered to be very limited.

It is feared cruise ships could be particularly vulnerable to terrorist strikes and will need the protection of Special Forces soldiers, who are highly skilled at boarding vessels at sea.

The Australian government declined to publicly confirm the deployment of its secretive SAS and Commando units but noted ‘Operation APEC Assist’ had been “at the request of the Papua New Guinea government”.

“As part of the Australian whole of government effort, the Australian Defence Force is providing advisory assistance to the PNG Joint Security Task Force, which has been established to provide a safe and secure APEC,” the Defence Department said in a statement.

Australian taxpayers are expected to pay a large portion of the costs of PNG’s ambitious plan to host APEC, partly to stave off rising Chinese influence in the nearby nation.

Details of the total costs of Australia’s security operations are not yet known, but the Defence Department said it had “leveraged a large part of the $US28.4 million annual Defence Cooperation Program in recent years, to enhance the PNG Defence Force’s major event security capability”.

“The final Defence contribution to Operation APEC Assist 18 is contingent on many factors, including future requests from the Government of PNG,” the Department said.


SOURCE: RADIO NZ

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