Australia and New Zealand raised concerns about the possibility of a Chinese military presence in Solomon Islands. This is despite growing tensions between the Pacific region and the US, who are launching live-fire military drills against the Philippines.
The nation is located in the Pacific Ocean, 1,240 miles from the coast of Australia. It confirmed that it was increasing its ties with China in order to counter security threats and provide a safe investment environment.
A draft Security Agreement could allow China to send troops, police and military personnel to the Solomons “to maintain social order” as well as for other reasons.
It could also send ships to islands to replenish supplies and stopovers.
The possibility of China signing a security pact to protect the Solomon Islands has raised concerns in Western countries, especially Australia, which has an existing security agreement with the archipelago. This comes amid simmering tensions over Taiwan and growing Chinese regional assertiveness.
The archipelago’s head of state is the Queen. It was previously a British protectorate, until its independence in 1978. Governor general represents the Queen on the islands.
Meanwhile, thousands of Filipino and American military personnel started a massive combat exercise on Monday. It will include live-fire manoeuvres and aircraft assaults as well as beach landings. This was in a display of firepower at the northern Philippines’ sea border with Taiwan.
China regards Taiwan as part its territory and has expressed concern over Western military activity near its borders.
“Gravely concerning” move
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, described the Solomons’ move as “gravely concerning” in a radio interview with Radio NZ. She also warned of possible militarization of the region.
Ms. Ardern advised the leaders of the country to “not look beyond our Pacific family” when assessing the country’s security relations.
Although the Solomon Islands’ capital is Honiara and is home to less that a million people, its recent expansion with China has raised alarm bells.
A Solomon Islands official informed Reuters that a security agreement with China would cover the military and was being sent to the cabinet. Already, the Solomons have signed a policing agreement with China.
Washington said last month that it would open an Embassy in Washington, amid concerns China wanted to strengthen military relations.
China declares cooperation is ‘warmly welcome’
Scott Morrison, Australia’s Prime Minister, stated Saturday that “there is great concern across Pacific family” because “we are in constant communication with our Pacific family”.
The deployment of Australian Federal Police Forces and Defence Forces was prompted by mass rioting in the Solomon Islands in November 2021.
Wang Wenbin (Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson) dismissed the concerns and stated that the Solomon government has warmly welcomed the cooperation between China, Solomon Islands and China.
At Monday’s daily briefing, Mr Wang stated that no attempt to undermine or disrupt the mutually beneficial cooperation between China & the Pacific Island countries would succeed.