U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed a defence cooperation agreement with Papua New Guinea on Monday, which he said would expand the Pacific Island nation's capabilities and make it easier for the U.S. military to train with its forces.

Blinken was also set to meet with 14 Pacific Island leaders. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier pledged support for the Pacific Islands at a summit in the capital Port Moresby.

Washington and its allies are seeking to deter Pacific Island nations from forming security ties with China, a rising concern amid tensions over Taiwan.

Leaders of the Pacific islands, whose territories span 40 million square kilometres (15 million square miles) of ocean, have said rising sea levels caused by climate change are their most pressing security priority.

Meeting with PNG Prime Minister James Marape, Blinken said the United States would deepen its partnership across the board with PNG. They discussed economic development, the climate crisis, and the importance of continuing U.S. engagement with the Pacific, the State Department said in a readout.

"The defence cooperation was drafted by the United States and Papua New Guinea as equals and sovereign partners," Blinken said at a signing ceremony.

It will expand PNG defence capabilities to enhance humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and make it easy for United States and PNG forces to train together, Blinken said.

"It will be fully transparent," he added.

A separate agreement would increase maritime surveillance of PNG's exclusive economic zone through U.S. Coast Guard patrols, protecting its economy from illegal fishing.

Blinken said partnerships with businesses would bring tens of billions of dollars' worth of new investment to PNG.

Source: Reuters