Solomon Islands and China sign security pact, despite Australia and US efforts to intervene

The Solomon Islands has signed a controversial security pact with China, despite efforts by Australia and the US to scupper the deal that could see the Asian giant establish a military presence in the South Pacific island nation.

China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin is quoted tonight saying the Solomon Islands security pact has now been signed by the foreign ministers of both countries.

The agreement has been confirmed by Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele, who says Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will make a formal announcement in coming days, the ABC reports.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, left, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. (AP)

The White House said on Monday that later this week, Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator, and Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, would lead a delegation of US government officials to the Solomons, and would also visit Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

A draft of the Solomons and China pact, which was leaked online, said Chinese warships could stop in the Solomons and China could send police and armed forces there “to assist in maintaining social order”.

The Solomons has sought to downplay the significance of the agreement and says it won’t lead to China establishing a military base there, but many neighbouring countries and Western nations remain worried.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the agreement could destabilise the Solomon Islands and would set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific region.

“Despite the Solomon Islands government’s comments, the broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of PRC (People’s Republic of China) military forces to the Solomon Islands,” Price said.

Senator Seselja, the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, last week said he met with Mr Sogavare and asked him to abandon the Chinese agreement.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja flew to Solomon Islands. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen (Sydney Morning Herald)

“We have asked Solomon Islands respectfully to consider not signing the agreement and to consult the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency, consistent with our region’s security frameworks,” he said in a statement.

The Solomons portrayed the meeting in a more positive light, saying Mr Sogavare and Senator Seselja held productive discussions regarding the security concerns of the Solomon Islands and the wider Pacific region.

Last week, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke with Mr Manele about Washington’s plan to reopen an embassy in the capital, Honiara.

The announcement of reopening the embassy, which has been closed since 1993, came in February before the security pact came to light, but amid already growing concerns about Chinese influence in the strategically important country.

Reference-www.9news.com.au

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