PNG Prime Minister Criticizes Biden's Remarks As Incorrect

 April 24, 2024

In a recent stir in international relations, remarked comments by U.S. President Joe Biden have sparked significant upset.

According to Fox News, Prime Minister James Marape of Papua New Guinea called out President Biden's erroneous assertion that cannibalism occurred in his country during World War II.

The controversy arose last week during President Biden's speech to steelworkers in Pittsburgh, where he referenced a sensitive and outdated misconception.

In his address, Biden recounted a story about his uncle, 2nd Lt. Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr., who, according to him, disappeared in Papua New Guinea during the war. This narrative alluded to a cannibalistic history among the local population, a point that Marape promptly corrected.

Marape Challenges Biden's Remarks on Papua New Guinea

Prime Minister Marape emphasized that Biden's comments projected a false and damaging image of Papua New Guinea. "President Biden’s remarks may have been a slip of the tongue; however, my country does not deserve to be labeled as such," expressed Marape, highlighting the unintentional role of Papua New Guinea in the world conflict and its current struggle with leftover war remnants, including unexploded ordnances and crashed warplanes.

Marape also issued a poignant reminder about the broader impacts of the war on his nation:

World War II was not the doing of my people; however, they were needlessly dragged into a conflict that was not their doing. The remains of WWII lie scattered all over PNG, including the plane that carried President Biden’s uncle.

The White House has defended President Biden's remarks, attributing them to an emotional overture during his advocacy for military personnel and their families. Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre elaborated on the account of Lt. Finnegan and underscored the administration's commitment to honoring those sent to combat and their dependents.

Continued Fallout and Calls for Action

Despite the White House’s explanation, the diplomatic fallout continued with Prime Minister Marape publicly calling for U.S. assistance in recovering the remains of servicemen, including those of Biden's uncle.

"Perhaps, given President Biden’s comments and the strong reaction from PNG, it is time for the USA to find as many remains of World War II in PNG as possible, including those of servicemen who lost their lives like Ambrose Finnegan," Marape stated, aiming to turn a sensitive issue into a call for action.

The controversy over President Biden’s comments arrives amid heightened geopolitical tensions, especially following his recent engagement with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Such incidents underscore international relations' intricate and delicate nature and historical perceptions concerning past conflicts.

As the situation unravels, the focus remains on potential diplomatic repercussions and efforts at historical reconciliation. The U.S. may face increased pressure to address the inaccuracies in its leader's statements, possibly influencing future relations with nations like Papua New Guinea.

While President Biden's remarks stemmed from a personal narrative meant to honor military commitments, they inadvertently touched on historical inaccuracies that are sensitive for the people of Papua New Guinea. This incident serves as a reminder of the complexities inherent in the intertwining of personal histories with global narratives, especially for leaders on the world stage.


Prime Minister James Marape’s firm response highlights the lasting sensitivity around World War II and its portrayal. It also opens a conversation about the importance of historical accuracy and the impact of words in diplomatic relations on the international stage. This incident might echo in future endeavors between the two nations, underscoring the need for careful communication and mutual respect in international discourse.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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