Australia's efforts to counter China's influence in the Pacific has been struck a blow after it emerged Papua New Guinea has asked Beijing to assist it in refinancing its entire government debt.
The request comes 10 days after PNG Prime Minister James Marape visited Australia at the invitation of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, proclaiming he wanted his nation to move away from an "aid-donor" relationship with Australia.
"I don't envisage this type of aid donor recipient relationship to last, in fact within the next 10 years I want my country to grow into economic self-reliance and independence," Mr Marape said during a speech in Sydney on July 25.
However, on Tuesday, after a meeting with the Chinese ambassador in Port Moresby, Mr Marape requested that China refinance its debts of $11.8 billion, The Australian reports.
"(The Prime Minister) requested the ambassador to inform Beijing on a bid to assist the government of PNG refinance its existing country's K27bn debt," the statement said.
"He suggested that both the Bank of PNG and the PRC People's Bank will take the lead with the Department of Treasury in ensuring that consultations are under way," Mr Marape's office said in a statement, according to the newspaper.
Australian Associated Press