Australian and Papua New Guinean Leaders Reflect on Sacrifice at Isurava Memorial on Anzac Day

Australian and PNG PMs commemorate Anzac Day, highlighting deep historical ties and security partnership amid China's growing influence in the Pacific.

Mahnoor Jehangir
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Australian and Papua New Guinean Leaders Reflect on Sacrifice at Isurava Memorial on Anzac Day

Australian and Papua New Guinean Prime Ministers Commemorate Anzac Day in Jungle Meeting

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape engaged in a meaningful discussion while sitting on a fallen tree trunk in the humid jungle of PNG on Anzac Day. The two leaders attended a dawn service at the Isurava memorial, the site of a major battle between U.S., Australian, and Japanese troops in 1942 during World War II.

Albanese emphasized the importance of remembering the sacrifices of those who served, saying, "Anzac Day has never asked us to exalt in the glories of war. Anzac Day asks us to stand against the erosion of time and to hold on to their names." Marape called for peace to prevail, stating, "Peace to prevail in all circumstances."

The visit highlighted the enduring security ties between Australia and Papua New Guinea, which were strengthened by a wide-ranging security agreement signed in December 2023. The agreement was delayed due to concerns over PNG's sovereignty after a security pact between PNG and the United States sparked riots.

Why this matters: The meeting between Albanese and Marape highlights the deep historical and cultural bonds between Australia and Papua New Guinea. It also underscores the importance of their strategic partnership in the face of growing regional challenges, including China's increasing influence in the Pacific.

Marape emphasized that the security agreements with the US and Australia did not mean PNG was siding with those allies in their strategic competition with China. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also visited PNG over the weekend to discuss building closer relations with the country.

Anzac Day Remembrance: Anzac Day commemorations were held across Australia and New Zealand, with New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon attending a dawn service in Auckland. The events of 1942 had a lasting impact on Australia's strategic thinking about its neighborhood, with the protection of Australian lines of supply and communication across the Pacific remaining a central consideration.

Albanese's decision to spend two days hiking the Kokoda Track, a trip that culminated with the dawn service in Isurava, is seen as an important gesture. 99 of the 625 Australians who were killed on the Kokoda Track died in the Battle of Isurava. The trip is also viewed as a way for Albanese to strengthen Australia's relationship with the Pacific region, which he has argued the former Coalition government had neglected.

Key Takeaways

  • Albanese, Marape discuss security ties, China's influence in Pacific.
  • Anzac Day commemorations held, highlighting historical bonds between Australia and PNG.
  • Albanese's Kokoda Track trek seen as gesture to strengthen Australia-Pacific ties.
  • PNG signs security agreements with US and Australia, but denies siding with allies.
  • Protecting Australia's Pacific supply lines remains a strategic priority since WWII.