Solomon Islands assures Australia that it will not host a Chinese military base

Sydney (Australia), 17 June. Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong confirmed during a visit to the Solomon Islands on Friday that Prime Minister Solomon Manasseh Sogavary had assured her that her country would not host a Chinese military base.

Security in the Pacific was the main topic of the meeting between Sugavari and Wong, who are visiting the island nation amid concerns over the security agreement signed in April between Honiara and Beijing, which allows for a military base.

“I welcome Prime Minister Sugavari’s assurances that there will be no foreign military base or presence here in the Solomon Islands,” Wong told reporters in Honiara, adding that he appreciated Sugavari’s highlighting of Australia as its “main security partner.”

“Australia’s position remains that the Pacific family must be responsible for our security, and the Pacific family is more than capable of providing that security,” the Australian minister said.

Wong, who was appointed after Labor’s latest victory in May, noted that they also addressed labor mobility between the two countries and the climate crisis, a priority issue for the new Australian government.

It is the fourth country that Wong has visited in the Pacific Ocean since May, after Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, in a bid to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Last April, the Solomon Islands and China signed a bilateral security cooperation agreement allowing for the dispatch of Chinese troops to the island country as well as the establishment of a military base, although Beijing has denied this is its intention.

The agreement came after the Solomon Islands in 2019 abandoned its alliance with Taiwan in favor of the Asian giant.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a ten-day tour of the Pacific at the end of May and signed several bilateral agreements, although he was unable to conclude a controversial multilateral plan with the region.

This plan—which China has been trying to sign with the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Niue, and the Federated States of Micronesia—includes access to marine resources and fishing, as well as possible dispatch of security forces, among other things.

Australia and the United States have already warned of the growing dominance of China, which also worries other countries that maintain their alliance with Taiwan, such as Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. EFE

aus-grc / raa / ah

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