Pacific focus after US, China tensions –

Australia is ramping up co-operation with the Pacific after a major international summit ended in a tense dispute between China and the United States.

Papua New Guinea hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting for the first time, but it ended without an official statement after the two superpowers could not agree on the wording.

Australia was caught in the middle between its largest trading partner China and long-time ally the US, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison was making the Pacific nations a priority.

“We’re trying to focus on the development and the advancement of the Pacific,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“There’s an opportunity to work together and we need to assist these countries to be stronger, because when they’re stronger both in their sovereignty, in their independence, in their economy, that’s all very good news for Australia.”

Mr Morrison announced a package of extra scholarships for Pacific students to study in Australian schools, and a “Pacific Australia Card” making it easier for politicians, business and sports people to visit Australia.

Australia and the US will also jointly expanded the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island, opening up a key staging point into the contested South China Sea.

And Australia, the US, Japan and New Zealand will jointly fund a major electrification project in PNG.

The prime minister praised PNG for hosting APEC, despite the lack of agreement on trade.

China and the US could not agree on language about reforms to the World Trade Organisation, and China opposed levelling the playing field against state-owned enterprises.

On Monday, Mr Morrison will visit Bomana cemetery, which contains 3824 Commonwealth burials from World War II, including 699 unidentified graves.

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