The National, Thursday 13th June 2013
By JEFFREY ELAPA
A STEADY stream of foreign leaders and dignitaries has visited Papua New Guinea in the past 12 months.
They include England’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman.
Several ministers and trade delegations from Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and Fiji have also visited the country during this period.
It is understood that the current political stability and economic boom in PNG are major contributing factors to increased number of visits by foreign leaders and dignitaries.
Just two days ago, Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Minoru Kuichi visited PNG and met with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Kuichi conveyed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s well wishes to the government and people of PNG.
O’Neill, in welcoming Kuichi, said that PNG-Japanese relations continued to be strengthened and enhanced and was anticipated to become even stronger in the future.
Their discussion focused on the people-to-people exchange under the Japan East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS) and the Kizuna Declaration, special visa arrangements to facilitate applications for diplomatic and official passport holders, economic and regional cooperation.
O’Neill told Kuichi: “Assistance from your government continues to mark remarkable and positive contributions to the economic and social development of PNG.
“The people of PNG continue to benefit from infrastructure, institutional building and agricultural developments provided by your government. This is very much appreciated by my government.
This has come about as a result of the role your government and investors have played consistently since the establishment of our diplomatic relationship in 1975.”
O’Neill also acknowledged the continued support and tireless work of the Japanese government through its various investors and organisations such as JICA.
He said he was grateful for the Japanese development assistance since independence but want the aid assistance to be aligned closely with the Government’s development programmes and priorities of health, education, infrastructure, law and order and business.
“We are also delighted with the investments by Japanese corporate citizens in many of our resource sectors. The latest being in PNG’s first LNG project, which is set to commence late 2014,” O’Neill said.
On the regional front, he said: “PNG through the Pacific Islands Forum is constantly monitoring the political situation in Fiji to ensure Fiji implements its road map to return to parliamentary democracy by 2014.”
O’Neill also assured the vice-minister the Papua New Guinea Government would support Japan’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, the prime minister and his ministers have also had their share of overseas duty travel since assuming office after the national elections last year.
In the past several months, O’Neill has visited several countries, including Australia and Japan and attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA.
Next week the prime minister will a high-profile delegation to Indonesia for a three-day state visit aimed at enhancing bilateral and trade relations.