At Independence in 1975 PNG adopted a “universalist” foreign policy under which it recognized all countries which recognized PNG, unless a country practiced racial or social policies of which PNG disapproved. In July 1980 this policy was changed to one of “selective engagement” under which PNG strengthened its relations with countries in the South Pacific and Southeast Asian regions. In 1988 PNG signed an agreement with Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to form the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to preserve and promote Melanesian culture and support the movement for independence of New Caledonia. PNG’s relationship with Solomon Islands became strained in 1990 because the PNG government believed that Solomon Islands was encouraging the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). Friendly relations were resumed in 1993 when the Solomon Islands government shut down the BRA office in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.
PNG’s relationship with Indonesia is complicated by the existence of a Melanesian rebel movement in the adjacent Indonesian province of Irian Jaya. In 1993 PNG was a member of the South Pacific Forum and the South Pacific Commission, and had observer status with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In March 1993 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, John Kaputin, emphasized the importance of PNG’s relationship with its closest neighbors and a “Look North” policy. Prime Minister Wingti has visited Indonesia (twice) and Singapore and Malaysia since assuming office in July 1992. These changes of policy have not affected the relationship with Australia, which remains PNG’s single most important partner. The government’s main intelligence gathering and assessment body is the National Intelligence Organisation which was formed in 1981 to take over from the Security Intelligence Organisation.