Prime Minister Gives Comments After Biden Speech

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has hit back at President Joe Biden after he made controversial comments last week that implied his uncle was eaten by cannibals during World War II in the Pacific island nation.

Marape's office issued a statement late Sunday saying that while Biden's comments may have been a slip of the tongue, "my country does not deserve to be labeled as such." Marape also urged the U.S. to "look into cleaning up these remains of WWII," referring to the numerous wrecks and human remains still present in the country.

This is not the first time President Biden has mentioned his family's connection to Papua New Guinea's wartime history. During a speech to the United Steelworkers Union in Pittsburgh, Biden said his uncle, Ambrose Finnegan, was shot down near Papua New Guinea and eaten by cannibals – a claim that has been disputed by historians.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, responsible for locating and identifying missing U.S. service members, says Finnegan's plane was forced to ditch due to engine failure and that his body was not recovered.

Papua New Guinea's relationship with the U.S. is a topic of increasing importance as China continues to expand its influence in the region. The U.S. signed a defense cooperation agreement with PNG last year, while China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi held meetings with Marape in Port Moresby on Sunday.

The U.S. State Department has responded to Marape's statement, saying that while it respects the people and culture of Papua New Guinea, it remains committed to furthering respectful relations between the two countries. The spokesperson also praised the "resilience, courage, and commitment to democratic ideals" of the PNG people.

However, Marape's criticism raises questions about the ongoing presence of World War II remains in the country. Historians say Papua New Guinea played a crucial role in the U.S. drive across the Pacific during WWII, but the impact of the war remains a sensitive topic among Pacific Islanders.

Marape's statement also highlights the need for the U.S. to address the remnants of WWII in Papua New Guinea. These include human remains, plane wrecks, shipwrecks, and leftover bombs that continue to kill people. The U.S. has previously promised to assist in the cleanup efforts.

Marape also noted that Papua New Guinea was "needlessly dragged into a conflict that was not their doing." This raises questions about the responsibility of the U.S. in addressing the impact of the war in the region.

China's increasing presence in the Pacific, particularly in Papua New Guinea's neighbor, the Solomon Islands, also adds to the complexity of the region's relationship with the U.S. and its allies. This is further compounded by the upcoming visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who will be commemorating the WWII history of the region.

The controversy surrounding Biden's comments and Marape's response highlights the need for open and respectful dialogue between nations, especially when it comes to sensitive topics such as war and its aftermath. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding and addressing the ongoing impact of conflicts on countries and their people.

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