Prime Minister Chris Hipkins attracts huge crowds in Papua New Guinea, meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

The Prime Minister says New Zealand is less worried about the United States bringing its military might to the Pacific than the grave concern we expressed about China's Solomon Islands security deal. 

The United States has just signed a security pact with Papua New Guinea which could allow it unfettered access to its military bases.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was welcomed to Gordon's Market in Port Moresby on Monday by a large crowd. 

But as warm as the welcome was, Hipkins was not the leader Papua New Guinea's been waiting for.

In US President Joe Biden's place is Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who touched down to sign a contentious, upgraded security pact with Papua New Guinea.

He's just met with Hipkins, who is on a whistle-stop trip of Papua New Guinea.

"We shouldn't assume that all military partnerships are necessarily about conflict," Hipkins said.

But there are concerns that's exactly what the US-PNG deal is about. There's debate in PNG that it puts the country at the epicentre of a military storm between the US and China.

Hipkins said New Zealand doesn't support the militarisation of the Pacific, but also "military presence doesn't necessarily signify militarisation".

The deal is a move by the US to muscle in on the Pacific after China signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands last year.

New Zealand condemned that pact as "gravely concerning", but Hipkins says it's different this time.

"We certainly know what to expect from the US in terms of our existing relationships with them," Hipkins said.

"I don't want to get into a comparison game on this. They are different situations. Our language is, I think, reflective of our position."

While some are concerned about the deal, locals Newshub spoke to do welcome the return of the US and all its might.

Over pastries and fruit, the PNG Prime Minister James Marape reassured Hipkins the superpower security pact was nothing to fear.

"Our own security issues are quite challenging," Marape said. "They are issues we need to deal with and a work in progress with the United States Defence."

Hipkins said the pact came up during a conversation with Marape, but he mostly just listened to what the deal would achieve for PNG, namely a "strengthened ongoing relationship" with the US.

Hipkins had his own blink and you'll nearly miss it Blinken handshake.

It comes as the US seeks support for another military alliance, the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal with the UK and Australia.

It's the beginning of a new era of attention on the Pacific.