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Frontline in US-China power struggle reaches Australia's doorstep

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The last time there was an imperial-scale contest for power over Australia's sphere, its land advance was halted in Papua New Guinea. That was 1942 on the storied Kokoda Track. The contemporary Kokoda campaign was engaged on the weekend. It is also occurring in PNG. It is not a hot war, of course. But one by one all elements short of war are being arrayed.

Xi Jinping arrives in Port Moresby for the APEC summit.Credit:AP

To now, the imperial-scale contest between the US and China has occurred at safely abstract distances from Australia. In the South China Sea, the East China Sea. The new line of resistance is a country whose closest point is just 5 kilometres from Australian soil. The most obvious forum was the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. It accordingly became an economic non-cooperation summit.

"APEC was always an area where we could reach some common agreement with China on economic matters," says Mike Green of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Instead, for the first time in a quarter-century, the summit broke up without agreement on a communique. Why? "You know the two big giants in the room," the summit host, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, said.

Says Green: "This shows two things. The Trump administration doesn't care about multilateral forums. They're happy to blow APEC up. And China is happy to blow it up too."

But first, four members of the official Chinese delegation to APEC tried to force their way into the office of the PNG Foreign Affairs Minister to insist on getting the communique rewritten to their liking.

Illustration: Dionne GainCredit:

The Pacific campaign in World........

© The Age