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China- Solomon Islands Security Deal

The Solomon Islands is a sovereign nation in the Pacific, near Australia and Papua New Guinea, with a population of about 700,000 people. The defence pact between the Solomon Islands and China is supposed to become a key foothold in Beijing’s push to expand its presence in the South Pacific. A draft of the deal was leaked on social media on March 24, setting off an immediate alarm in countries like Australia, New Zealand and the USA.  Huge numbers of pleas started to come from domestic and international quarters alike, requesting the Solomon Islands’ government, headed by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, to step back from the deal. However, Sogavare rejected all the expressions of concern and on March 31, China and the Solomon Islands began formalising the agreement.

In Beijing on Thursday, the Foreign Affairs spokesman, from China, Wang Wenbin said that the agreement did not target any third country. He said the Pacific nation was “a stage for international cooperation, but was not any country’s ‘backyard’”. Wang’s remarks came after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison remarked, “there is great concern across the Pacific family because we are in constant contact with our Pacific family.” New Zealand also expressed grave concerns relating to the possible militarization of the Pacific following a decision by the Solomon Islands government to form a security partnership with China.

Malcolm Davis, a senior security analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said, “a forward Chinese military base would further undermine Australia’s security environment considerably, and generate much greater risks to our defence and security in any future war.”

Earlier this year, Chinese ambassador Li Ming said “police cooperation between [the] Solomon Islands and China does not conflict with other countries. It adds to collaboration with other countries and is not a zero-sum game.”

A Chinese Spokesperson also remarked that “The China-Solomon Islands security cooperation agreement will deepen cooperation in keeping social order, protecting lives & property, humanitarian aid & disaster relief. It helps to keep Solomon Islands stable, promote peace & stability, [and] increase common interests of the region.”

Despite the rising tension amidst Australia, New Zealand, China and the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Mr Sogavare said Australia’s national interests will be protected and will not be threatened by its proposed arrangement with China. He further stated, “As I’ve said in my letter to Prime Minister [Scott] Morrison…. I also reiterate that Australia remains our partner of choice, and we will not do anything to undermine Australia’s national security.”