Australia and Papua New Guinea are pushing ahead on a security pact that “would cover all security aspects in the region”.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong was in PNG on Monday and Tuesday for talks with Prime Minister James Marape and her counterpart Justin Tkatchenko.
Discussions encompassed progressing the security treaty, which could possibly involve New Zealand, but talks remain at a very early stage, the ABC is reporting.
“I would say New Zealand would be a major part of it as well, in our region. (It) would cover all security aspects in the region,” Mr Tkatchenko told the ABC.
“A treaty between our traditional partners in the region will just help give security to all countries and put us all on one page.
“It’s all not in black and white yet but it was put on the table and it’s something that will be considered and taken forward into the future.”
During a joint press conference alongside Senator Wong on Monday, Mr Tkatchenko flagged expanding the bilateral relationship through a series of further treaties and deals.
“Our traditional partners have always been Australia when it comes to trade, economics, security,” he said.
“We will continue to … develop that through treaties, for partnership to make sure we have a safe region.”
The pair will meet again at a ministerial forum in November.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is also due to host Mr Marape in September.
A security treaty was flagged under their Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership where the two nations pledged to “develop a bilateral security treaty to further promote our shared security interests and cooperation”.
Then foreign minister Marise Payne reaffirmed a commitment to a security deal after talks in September 2021, and officials commenced scoping discussions in October 2021.
The comments from Mr Tkatchenko come amid a tumultuous time in the region after the Solomon Islands inked a security deal with China earlier in the year.
The pact has drawn the ire of Australia, the US and other Pacific Island nations who want to keep security ties within the region.
Western allies have raised concerns about a possible permanent Chinese military presence in the region – which Honiara and Beijing both deny – while other Pacific nations remain alarmed their region could become collateral during a conflict between the US and China.