By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby
Two American C-17 Globemaster transport planes will bring 20 vehicles to Papua New Guinea in the next few days as part of preparations for the arrival of US President Joe Biden next week.
All eyes will be on APEC Haus as the President and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Pacific Island leaders at separate meetings.
Dubbed “the Island”, APEC Haus will be the most watched building in the country if not throughout the whole Pacific region.
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On Sunday, four security armoured vehicles were flown into Port Moresby and were under heavy escort out of Jackson International Airport.
Just yesterday afternoon another lot of vehicles was brought in as momentum builds up to the first ever visit by a sitting President to a Pacific island nation.
Another 16 vehicles will be arriving over the next few days.
The presidential limousine, popularly referred to as “The Beast”, Marine One and security detachments are expected to arrive before the President touches down in Port Moresby.
Advance Secret Service team
White House officials also arrived in the country on the weekend to join an advanced Secret Service team that flew in last week.
About 1000 local security personnel, both PNG Defence Force and police will be assisting about 200 members of Biden’s security team.
The Correctional Service team is on standby to assist, CS Commissioner Stephen Pokanis said.
From the police, the Special Services Division (SSD) will be providing 200 men from the mobile squad, 36 from the national security unit, 20 from the air wing unit and several members from the bomb squad, bringing the total to 241 men.
Other units who will be involved include the NCD dog unit, the water police, police headquarters, Bomana police college, Central Province police, the incident management team, and the planning and co-ordination team. NCD police will support with 150 men and women.
Minister for Internal Security Peter Tsiamalili Jr confirmed the collaboration between the PNG task force who will work hand in hand with US security and intelligence teams, as well as the Indian intelligence.
Security ‘dry run’
“To ensure a seamless experience for our Pacific leaders, we will be conducting a dry run on Wednesday, May 17.
“This will involve running through the airport arrival procedures, as well as the routes from the Apec Terminal to the Apec Haus,” Tsiamalili said.
“We are expecting a full support team from the White House and the Indian Prime Minister’s office to accompany their respective leaders.”
The National Co-ordination Centre will be operating from Morauta House and will accommodate the different local agencies.
The Post-Courier understands that the airspace around APEC Haus will be closed to all aircraft while President Biden meets with Prime Minister James Marape and the leaders from the Pacific.
Security will also be tight at sea, with ships guarding around APEC Haus.
Sniper teams will be stationed around APEC Haus and the airport.
14 Pacific nations
Pacnews reports that the 14 Pacific island nations taking part are Cook Islands (current Pacific Island Forum chair), Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The forum between India and 14 Pacific island countries began in 2014, with India offering assistance to major projects.
They included the setting up of a US$1 million funding for adapting to climate change and clean energy; establishing a trade office in India; a Pan Pacific Islands e-network to improve digital connectivity; extending visa-on-arrival at Indian airports for the 14 countries; cooperation in space technology applications for improving the quality of life of the islands; and training diplomats from Pacific Island countries.
India also increased the annual grant-in-aid from US$125,000 to US$200,000 to each of the Pacific Island countries for community projects of their choice.
Miriam Zarriga is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.