PORT MORESBY, May 22 (AFP) - Papua New Guinea signed a defence pact with the United States on Monday, giving US forces access to its airfields and ports as Washington vies with China's expanding footprint in the Pacific region.

Washington has growing concerns about China's rise in the Pacific, where it is trying to woo nations with an array of diplomatic and financial incentives in return for strategic support.

Defence Minister Win Bakri Daki inked the deal with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken before the start of a US meeting with the leaders of 14 South Pacific island states in the capital Port Moresby.

"A defence cooperation agreement is done," Prime Minister James Marape said at the signing ceremony, adding that the Pacific island was "elevating" its relationship with the United States.

Blinken said each of the two nations would be able to board the other's vessels, share technical expertise and "better patrol" the seas together.

"We are working together to shape the future. We are very much looking forward to taking our partnership to the next level," he said.