Publication Details

Monden, K. (2003). 'Friend to one, enemy to many?': The time of foreign policy struggle in Papua New Guinea under the Bill Skate government. Alpheus, 1 1-21.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Alpheus – University of Wollongong


Since independence in 1975 Papua New Guinea (PNG) has adopted as its fundamental foreign policy position the principle that the country is 'friends to all and enemies to none.' When PNG foreign policy shifts from this principle the realist foundations of the Country's international relationships are challenged. Under the administration of Bill Skate from 1997-1999 such a shift came close to being realized as Papua New Guinean political players used foreign policy and diplomatic interests to justify or extend their domestic political and electoral interests.

This paper focuses on diplomatic events in PNG at the end of Bill Skate's Government, examining in particular his decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Beijing to Taipei in 1999. This case study shows that the immediate practical consequences of abandoning long-term foreign policy interests for short-term domestic political considerations can have serious implications for a marginalised state such as PNG. While a shift in policy was averted, PNG very nearly lost its reputation for neutrality and very nearly brought diplomatic isolation onto itself, not to mention the wrath of China and Australia . Such ad hoc foreign policy realignment undermines PNG's established foreign policy encapsulated in the principle of 'friends to all and enemies to none,' which very nearly became 'friend to one, enemy to many.'