NOOSA - In the wake of APEC, we have now learned that China has had an important victory with the Papua New Guinea government rejecting an approach from Australia, the United States and Japan to build an important element in the country’s internet infrastructure.
PNG’s minister for public enterprise and state investment William Duma has announced that his government will stick with Chinese company, Huawei, with which it already had an agreement signed in 2016.
This is a significant rebuff to Australia and the United States, which have tried to persuade PNG to dump the Chinese company as, in recent times, they have sought to dilute China’s influence in the Pacific region.
From PNG’s viewpoint it could be seen as a balancing move to reassure China that it is seeking to maintain a neutral stand in its relations with both the West and China, especially in the light of the deal with Australia and the US to rebuild Manus as a key military asset.
“We have an existing agreement [with Huawei],” Duma told Reuters news agency.
“It’s about honour and integrity. Once you enter into a deal and an arrangement you go with it.”
Reuters said Duma had dismissed the allies ‘11th-hour counter offer’ saying it was “a bit patronising” as Huawei had done 60% of the work on the project.
A number of Western governments, including those of the US and Australia, are suspicious of Huawei’s links to the Chinese government and, on security grounds, have rejected the company’s attempts to tender for projects in their countries.
Huawei will construct build a 5,500 km network of submarine cables linking 14 coastal towns in PNG.
Reuters reported that Western intelligence agencies have said Huawei’s technology could be used for espionage - something the company denies.
Representatives of the Australian, Japanese and United States governments had no comment on the setback.