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China and Papua New Guinea discuss policing, security cooperation

SYDNEY (Reuters) -- Papua New Guinea is in early talks with China on a potential security and policing deal, Foreign Minister Justin Tkachenko told Reuters, weeks after deadly riots in the South Pacific nation's capital.

Amid jostling between Washington and Beijing for influence in the Pacific, the biggest Pacific island nation, Papua New Guinea, has previously said Australia and the United States were its security partners, while China was an important economic partner.

China approached PNG in September with an offer to assist its police force with training, equipment and surveillance technology, Tkachenko said in an interview with Reuters on Monday. Talks continued last week.

"We deal with China at this stage only at economic and trade level. They are one of our biggest trading partners, but they have offered to assist our policing and security on the internal security side," Tkachenko said.

PNG will assess if the Chinese offer duplicates security and policing assistance already being offered by Australia and the United States, he said.

"It is still in early stages of negotiation with our commissioner of police and our minister of internal security," he said. "They have offered it to us, but we have not accepted it at this point in time."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing in Beijing that Papua New Guinea is "China's good friend and good partner" in the Pacific Islands, and they had cooperated in various fields, including policing, for a long time.

"China is willing to continue to work with Papua New Guinea to continue to promote cooperation in relevant fields, deepen and promote common development," he added.

China is a "strong economic partner" of PNG, with the two nations forming