Military Presence In Soloman Islands Seen As Cause Of Concern By New Zealand And Australia

The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand see the Chinese military deployment in the Solomon Islands as a cause of concern for both the countries. According to a document published last week, China may increase its military presence in the South Pacific island country, including by sending ships there.

Over the weekend, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison talked with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the situation, and he intended to call with his colleagues in Papua New Guinea and Fiji later Monday. “The allegations we’ve received are not surprising to us, and they serve as a reminder of the continual strain and challenges to our own national security that exist in our region,” Morrison told reporters.

When it comes to the Solomon Islands’ security partnerships, Ardern advised leaders “not to look outside our own Pacific family.” “The Solomon Islands government and people have enthusiastically embraced the collaboration between China and the Solomon Islands,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Wang Wenbin said.

The Solomon Islands announced on Thursday that it had signed a policing cooperation deal with China, but their neighbours were more concerned by the leaked draught language of a bigger security accord. China might send police, military officers, and other armed forces to the Solomon Islands under the parameters of the draught agreement “to assist in preserving social order” and for a range of other purposes.

It may also send ships to the islands for rest stops and supply replenishment.

China will have to approve off on any material revealed on collaborative security arrangements, including at media briefings, according to the draught deal. It was unclear when the security agreement would be finished, signed, and put into action.

The Solomon Islands, which have a population of around 700,000 people, shifted diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, sparking rioting in November. Since then, Australian police have been keeping the calm in Honiara, the capital, according to a bilateral security pact signed in 2017. In the case of a serious security threat, it offers a legal foundation for the fast deployment of Australian police, military, and citizens. When Australian police and military departed the Solomon Islands after 14 years in 2017, the two nations inked a bilateral treaty allowing Australians to return at the prime minister’s invitation.

When Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare requested assistance in November, when the treaty was triggered. From 2003 until 2017, Australia led a deployment of Pacific Island police and military to the Solomon Islands as part of the Regional Assistance Mission.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, then Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, claimed in 2018 that Chinese aid initiatives in poor Pacific island countries were producing “white elephants” that posed a threat to economic stability while failing to offer benefits. Beijing reacted angrily to her remarks. The US, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, the Pacific’s traditional assistance partners, have ramped up efforts to come up with alternate solutions to China’s Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure agreements.

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