The Lombrum Naval Base was first established by the United States in 1944 after Japanese forces were removed from the island. The US-built base includes wharves and a 9,000-foot runway. Though the base was later taken over by Australia, it was ultimately given to Papua New Guinea after it became an independent nation in 1975.
In recent months, it has been reported by various outlets in the Land Down Under, including the Australian Associated Press, that Australian defense officials were deployed to Manus Island on a "scoping visit," according to the Guardian.
The visit is said to have taken place between August 28 and August 30 after Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O'Neill expressed interest in wanting to redevelop the naval base with Canberra.
According to Australian Defense Secretary Greg Moriarty, the costs of the developments would be taken on by both countries, with a larger portion being placed on the Australian government.
"My expectation is that should the Australian government agree to something like that, we would take the lion's share of the funding," Moriarty, speaking to committee members at a recent Australian Senate hearing, said.
"But PNG would make a contribution, as they do already, to the maintenance and sustainment of that base."
According to the Australian Associated Press, Australia has already shelled out some $5 million to upgrade a wharf at the base. The funding is in addition four patrol boats that are expected to be given to Papua New Guinea.
Reports on the future of the base, however, have also been contradicted by defense officials in Papua New Guinea. Gilbert Toropo, the commander of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force, told the Australian Associated Press that there were no current discussions underway with the force on the construction of a new base.
The joint naval base, which may house US warship at a later time, is being considered as a strategic asset to pre-empt China from scooping up "an important piece of real estate," according to military website Stars And Stripes. If and when US vessels do become a factor at Lombrum, it has been suggested that the facility could be used to support amphibious operations being carried out by the US Marines.
US defense analyst Paul Buchanan told the publication Friday that the naval base could easily be used as a means of keeping an eye on China and tracking its submarines, which could soon see a increase in numbers.
The agreement could be finalized ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in mid-November, according to The Diplomat.