MELBOURNE, Australia — Hundreds of thousands of people gathered across Australia and New Zealand for dawn services and street marches Thursday to commemorate their war dead on Anzac Day, as tensions mount in U.S.-China rivalry in the region.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon attended a dawn service in his country’s largest city, Auckland, while Australian Prime Minister Prime Minister Anthony Albanese saw the sun rise at a World War II memorial in the wilds of Australia’s nearest neighbor, Papua New Guinea.

April 25 is the date in 1915 when the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the beaches of Gallipoli, in northwest Turkey, in an ill-fated campaign that was the soldiers’ first combat of World War I.

Albanese trekked to the memorial in the town of Isurava over two days with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape. Isurava was the site of a major battle where U.S. and Australian troops fought the Japanese in August 1942.

“Those who enlisted for the Second World War grew up in an Australia scarred by the memory of the first,” Nine Network reported Albanese telling the gathering.

“Anzac Day has never asked us to exalt in the glories of war. Anzac Day asks us to stand against the erosion of time and to hold on to their names,” Albanese added.

Marape called for “peace to prevail in all circumstances.”

Albanese is using his trip to underscore enduring security ties between the two countries that deepened in December last year when he and Marape signed a wide-ranging security agreement.

The signing was delayed by six months after a security pact between Papua New Guinea and the United States sparked riots in the South Pacific nation over concerns that the country’s sovereignty was being undermined.

Marape said in December that his government’s security agreements with the U.S. and Australia did not mean he was siding with those allies in their strategic competition with China.

China’s Foreign Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Papua New Guinea at the weekend to discuss with Marape building closer relations.

In New Zealand, Luxon told the crowd that the country had to thank its military personnel for their freedom and democracy.

“It’s a sacred day for all New Zealanders. It’s a chance for us all to stop, to reflect, to remember, to commemorate great Kiwi service men and women in the past and present who have gone to stand up for our values,” the Stuff news website reported Luxon saying.

Police on Thursday assured the public that there was no extremist threat to Anzac Day services and marches in Sydney. The assurance came after s even teenagers accused of following a violent extremist ideology were arrested in police raids across southwest Sydney on Wednesday.

Extremists have plotted mass-casualty attacks on past Anzac Days, but police have intervened before plans were executed.

Sydney residents turned out in large numbers for Thursday’s events.

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