Biden's Remarks on Uncle's WWII Death in Papua New Guinea Spark Controversy

Biden's WWII comments about his uncle's death in PNG draw criticism from PM Marape, who dismisses the "loose" remarks and urges the US to help clear war remnants in the region.

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Biden's Remarks on Uncle's WWII Death in Papua New Guinea Spark Controversy

Biden's Remarks on Uncle's WWII Death in Papua New Guinea Spark Controversy

President Joe Biden's recent comments about his uncle's death during World War II in Papua New Guinea have drawn criticism from the nation's Prime Minister James Marape.

Biden had suggested that his uncle, Army Air Corps Second Lt. Ambrose Finnegan, was eaten by cannibals after his plane crashed in Papua New Guinea. However, Marape dismissed these remarks as "loose" and stated they do not reflect the strong relationship between the two countries.

According to U.S. military records, Finnegan's plane actually crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Papua New Guinea's coastline after experiencing engine failure. No trace of the plane or its occupants was ever found. Marape clarified that Finnegan's remains were never recovered and urged Biden to focus on the lingering effects of World War II in the region, including unexploded ordnance and military wreckage that still pose dangers.

Why this matters: Biden's comments come at a sensitive time as the U.S. seeks to counter China's growing influence in the Pacific region. The incident highlights the importance of accurately portraying historical events and maintaining strong diplomatic ties with key partners like Papua New Guinea.

Marape acknowledged that while cannibalism has been documented in remote parts of Papua New Guinea in the past, the nation has been working to shed outdated stereotypes. He emphasized that Papua New Guinea does not deserve to be labeled as cannibals and that their relationship with the U.S. is much deeper than one "blurry moment."

"World War II was not the doing of my people, who were needlessly dragged into a conflict that was not their doing," Marape stated. He called on the U.S. to assist in clearing the remnants of the war scattered across Papua New Guinea's jungles, noting that his people still live with the fear of being killed by unexploded WWII bombs.

Despite the controversy surrounding Biden's remarks, Marape insisted that it has not tainted the broader bilateral relations between the U.S. and Papua New Guinea. "Sometimes you have loose moments, but the ties between our two countries are stronger than one blurry moment," Marape said. He urged Biden to "clean up" the remains of World War II casualties in Papua New Guinea so the truth about missing servicemen like Ambrose Finnegan could be put to rest.

Key Takeaways

  • Biden claimed his uncle was eaten by cannibals in PNG, but records show his plane crashed at sea.
  • PNG PM Marape dismissed Biden's remarks as "loose" and not reflective of their strong ties.
  • Marape urged Biden to help clear WWII remnants in PNG, where unexploded ordnance still poses dangers.
  • Biden's comments come as the U.S. seeks to counter China's growing influence in the Pacific region.
  • Marape insisted the controversy has not tainted broader bilateral relations between the U.S. and PNG.