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PoliticsPapua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea PM reacts to Biden 'cannibalism' comment

April 22, 2024

Prime Minister Marape said his nation doesn't deserve to be labeled cannibals. In controversial statements last week, US president Biden implied his uncle may have been eaten by cannibals in the country during WWII.

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 22, 2022, at U.N. headquarters.
Papua New Guinea's prime minister said his nation doesn't deserve to be labeled cannibalsImage: Julia Nikhinson/AP Photo/picture alliance

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape has reacted to controversial statements by US President Joe Biden on cannibalism, saying his nation doesn't deserve to be labeled cannibals.

Revisiting the story of his uncle Ambrose Finnegan, who went missing after his plane crashed over Papua New Guinea in 1944 during World War II, Biden last week suggested he may have fallen victim to 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 in the statement on Sunday.

The prime minister urged Biden and the White House to focus instead on clearing up the unexploded ordnance from the war that still litters the country to this day, "so the truth about missing servicemen like Ambrose Finnegan can be put to rest."

Marape: Biden's 'loose' comments

In an interview, Marape dismissed Biden's words on cannibalism as "one blurry moment."

"Sometimes you have loose moments," he said.

The prime minister also spoke of his meetings with Biden.

"I've met him on four occasions, until today, and on every occasion he's always had warm regards for Papua New Guinea," Marape said. "Never in those moments [has] he spoke[n] of PNG as cannibals."

The US has been vying for influence in Papua New Guinea, as it aims to counter China's growing presence in the region. Last year, the two countries signed a defense cooperation agreement.

China expands its influence in Papua New Guinea

rmt/jsi (AFP, Reuters)