Papua New Guinean PM Tests Positive to COVID-19 During Trip to Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony

Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape has tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Beijing on Feb. 3 for the opening of the Winter Olympic Games. His office revealed on Feb. 6, that the prime minister will not travel to France the following week for the Indo-Pacific summit, where he was slated to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron. “Prime Minister Marape will now abort the French leg of this trip due to COVID-19 restrictions, having returned a positive test result upon arrival in Beijing last Thursday evening,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement obtained by Reuters. Marape’s short visit to China coincided with the signing of several deals with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who he met virtually on Feb. 5. Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, James Marape (C), arrives at the house of Governor-General Bob Dadae in Port Moresby on May 30, 2019. (Gorethy Kenneth/AFP/Getty Images) Both leaders signed a series of agreements and Memoranda of Understanding across exports, free trade, medicine, and infrastructure loans (Belt and Road Initiative). “These deliverables present market opportunities, growth in economic cooperation, future opportunities in trade and some very specific projects,” the prime minister’s office wrote on Facebook. “The future eventuality of a free trade agreement between China and Papua New Guinea (PNG) will be significant. It will be our first from a country-to-country perspective.” In the joint statement released on Chinese state-run media, Xinhua, PNG leaders further reaffirmed its standing commitment to the One China policy and vowed to “consider matters related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet as China’s internal affairs,” pledging non-interference. PNG is actively courting large Chinese firms to invest in local industries such as forestry, coffee, fisheries, rice farming, livestock, and in the oil and gas sector. The cosy relationship between Marape and Beijing has added to ongoing concerns of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) increasing influence in the region, which has spurred U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to visit Australia, Fiji, and Hawaii in the coming week to discuss security issues and the Quad. U.S. democratic allies have been involved in a geopolitical tug-of-war in the region against Beijing, which has seen increased funding and aid assistance directed towards the region to solidify alliances. For example, on Dec. 12, Australia, Japan, and the United States committed to building a high-speed, undersea cable to connect Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia—around 100,000 people are expected to benefit. In late October, the Australian government and major telecommunications firm, Telstra, pulled the trigger on an AU$2.1 billion (US$1.6 billion) acquisition of mobile business Digicel before any Chinese-linked entities could step in. Digicel Pacific is the main carrier for Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Fiji. Follow Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Contact him at [email protected]

Papua New Guinean PM Tests Positive to COVID-19 During Trip to Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony

Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape has tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Beijing on Feb. 3 for the opening of the Winter Olympic Games.

His office revealed on Feb. 6, that the prime minister will not travel to France the following week for the Indo-Pacific summit, where he was slated to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Prime Minister Marape will now abort the French leg of this trip due to COVID-19 restrictions, having returned a positive test result upon arrival in Beijing last Thursday evening,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

Marape’s short visit to China coincided with the signing of several deals with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who he met virtually on Feb. 5.

Epoch Times Photo
Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, James Marape (C), arrives at the house of Governor-General Bob Dadae in Port Moresby on May 30, 2019. (Gorethy Kenneth/AFP/Getty Images)

Both leaders signed a series of agreements and Memoranda of Understanding across exports, free trade, medicine, and infrastructure loans (Belt and Road Initiative).

“These deliverables present market opportunities, growth in economic cooperation, future opportunities in trade and some very specific projects,” the prime minister’s office wrote on Facebook.

“The future eventuality of a free trade agreement between China and Papua New Guinea (PNG) will be significant. It will be our first from a country-to-country perspective.”

In the joint statement released on Chinese state-run media, Xinhua, PNG leaders further reaffirmed its standing commitment to the One China policy and vowed to “consider matters related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet as China’s internal affairs,” pledging non-interference.

PNG is actively courting large Chinese firms to invest in local industries such as forestry, coffee, fisheries, rice farming, livestock, and in the oil and gas sector.

The cosy relationship between Marape and Beijing has added to ongoing concerns of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) increasing influence in the region, which has spurred U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to visit Australia, Fiji, and Hawaii in the coming week to discuss security issues and the Quad.

U.S. democratic allies have been involved in a geopolitical tug-of-war in the region against Beijing, which has seen increased funding and aid assistance directed towards the region to solidify alliances.

For example, on Dec. 12, Australia, Japan, and the United States committed to building a high-speed, undersea cable to connect Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia—around 100,000 people are expected to benefit.

In late October, the Australian government and major telecommunications firm, Telstra, pulled the trigger on an AU$2.1 billion (US$1.6 billion) acquisition of mobile business Digicel before any Chinese-linked entities could step in.

Digicel Pacific is the main carrier for Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Fiji.


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Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Contact him at [email protected]