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22 Apr, 2024 09:10

Pacific nation reacts to Biden’s cannibalism quip

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has downplayed the US president’s comments on his uncle’s presumed death in the country
Pacific nation reacts to Biden’s cannibalism quip

US President Joe Biden’s recent remarks in which he implied that his uncle was eaten by cannibals in Papua New Guinea during World War II were uncalled for, the prime minister of the Southwest Pacific nation has said.

Last Wednesday, Biden recounted the story of Ambrose Finnegan, his mother’s brother, who is recorded by the US military as missing in action off New Guinea, after a plane he was on crashed in the Pacific Ocean, leaving only one survivor. According to the president, his uncle’s plane was shot down and his body was never found because “there were a lot of cannibals − for real − in that part of New Guinea.”

“Sometimes you have loose moments,” Prime Minister James Marape said in an interview on Sunday, reacting to Biden’s remarks. He added that he has met with the US leader on four different occasions, and “he’s always had warm regards for Papua New Guinea” and never mentioned cannibalism.

”President Biden’s remarks may have been a slip of the tongue; however, my country does not deserve to be labeled as such,” Marape said.

Papua New Guinea was dragged into World War II, which was not its fight, the prime minister said. He urged Washington to help clean up PNG and the Solomon Islands, which are “littered with the remains of WWII, including human remains, plane wrecks, ship wrecks, tunnels and bombs,” which still pose a threat to people who live there. If this is done, then perhaps “the truth about missing servicemen like Ambrose Finnegan can be put to rest,” he suggested.

The US is vying for influence in Papua New Guinea as it competes with China in the region. Last year, Washington signed a defense cooperation agreement with the island nation. Beijing reached a similar deal with the neighboring Solomon Islands.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Marape in the capital, Port Moresby on Sunday in an effort to foster better economic relations.