“We have an existing agreement,” William Duma, the state investment minister, told reporters. Huawei has already completed 60 percent of the $200 million project, which is financed by the Export-Import Bank of China. Mr. Duma said that made the 11th-hour effort from the Western powers “a bit patronizing.”
The competing offer comes as the allies have watched China’s growing investment in the resource-rich island countries of the Pacific Ocean with increasing concern. Earlier this year, Australia agreed to fund an undersea communications cable linking Sydney with the Solomon Islands, following a similar deal with Papua New Guinea.
Australian officials were concerned that if the project went to Huawei, as the Solomon Islands had agreed in 2016, the Chinese company might gain access to Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure. Huawei has been banned from bidding on projects for Australia’s national broadband network since 2012 because of security concerns.
The joint offer that Papua New Guinea rejected on Tuesday came too late, said Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. Still, he said, it was meant to show that the United States and its allies remain a viable alternative to China’s money and influence.
“We’d like to show that we’re still in this game,” Mr. Pryke said, referring to the position of the three allies. “We wanted to maintain our position as a partner of choice.”
Officials in Papua New Guinea have raised questions about potential ties between Huawei and the Chinese government, Danielle Cave, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, wrote in a report on Tuesday. But the country has been growing closer to China. It was an early signatory to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious infrastructure program stretching through much of Asia that is widely seen as an effort to extend Beijing’s political influence.
Security concerns are “for the big boys to worry about,” Mr. Duma, the Papua New Guinea minister, said Tuesday.