US Vice President Mike Pence has announced that the United States will work together with Australia to jointly upgrade the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The base will be co-developed by the United States, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. Overlooking busy Pacific trade routes on the northern extremity of PNG, Lombrum was a major US naval base during World War II that has since fallen into disrepair. Though details of the upgrades remain scant, Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne has confirmed that Australian naval vessels would probably be permanently based at Lombrum once the work is complete.
The move represents a deepening of US-Australia military cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. Taken together with the announcement of lucrative new aid provisions from Japan, Australia, and the United States, a picture emerges of coordinated engagement from the Quad (minus India) in a region that has figured prominently in China’s Belt and Road plan. Beijing has offered billions in financing to island nations in the Pacific, in some cases supplanting Australia as primary donor. There have been rumblings that these loans could one day open the door to a PLA Navy base in the region, with Vanuatu being rumored as a possible landing spot earlier this year.