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Indo-Pacific: US Navy returned to PNG after 80 years

Under the agreement with Papua New Guinea, the Americans are not allowed to be permanently stationed on the island, the nearby airport and two other ports, but will have "unimpeded" access to transit or training and equipment deployment for the next 15 years

According to an April 30 report on the website of The Australian newspaper, the U.S. Navy returned to Papua New Guinea (PNG) for the first time in 80 years on April 29.

According to the report, the U.S. Navy has begun launching various projects at the Lombrum naval base, strategically located on Los Negros Island near PNG's Manus Island, including a huge 700-square-meter training center, an equally large naval facility and a pier.

Rombrum is one of six military bases in PNG where U.S. military personnel have free access under a defense cooperation agreement signed by U.S. President Joe Biden last year.

The move is the latest in a new "base race" in the defense community to create strategic maritime hubs in different regions.

The U.S. initiative to rebuild the World War II base with the Australian Defense Force and the PNG Defense Force was first announced in 2018, but the U.S. government has only now allocated a budget of 38.5 million Australian dollars ($25.25 million).

The U.S. Navy announced, "These projects will support the PNG Defense Force, maritime security operations, U.S. military personnel engaged in joint exercises, and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's 'Theatre Campaign Plan.'"

As of 2020, the Australian Defense Force (ADF) and PNG are rebuilding the base, including parts that have been swallowed by the jungle over the decades, including an Australian-supplied power plant, a medical center and facilities for operating Guardian-class patrol boats.

The U.S. naval base, code-named "Lion," opened in February 1944 as a major naval maintenance and operations base, comparable to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during the intense fighting with Japan during World War II. The base served the United States to liberate the Philippines, where 200 ships were docked and 37,000 soldiers stationed.

The US Navy abandoned the base after the war and gave it to Australia, which returned it to PNG in the 1970s.

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