China ‘interference and intrusion’ a challenge for Pacific leaders: PM
Posted On May 9, 2022
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today Australia is “very aware” of Chinese ambitions in the Pacific after reports Beijing is planning to build port infrastructure on the Solomon Islands.
Morrison was asked by reporters during a campaign event on the NSW South Coast about a leaked draft maritime cooperation deal between the Solomon Islands and China obtained by The Australian newspaper.
“We are very aware of what’s happening in our region and of the pressures there that the Chinese government is seeking to put on countries across our region,” the prime minister said.
Beijing is aiming to cement closer economic and security ties with the Solomon Islands – which is 1700km from the Queensland coast – by pledging to build shipyards, wharves and submarine cables in the Pacific, the report said.
The leaked document also said China wants to set up deep-sea fishing facilities and explore underwater mining in the Pacific.
Morrison repeated his assertion that the security deal between the two countries was not in the interests of the Solomon Islands.
“I don’t believe it’s in the Solomon Islands’ national interest. That is ultimately a matter for the people of the Solomon Islands.
“I am very concerned, as many other Pacific leaders are, about the interference and intrusion of the Chinese government into these types of arrangements and what that can mean for the peace, stability and security of the south-west Pacific.”
During his visit to the NSW South Coast, Morrison launched the Coalition’s ‘safe and secure Australia’ policy at the HMAS Albatross naval base.
The blueprint flagged the biggest expansion of Australia’s armed forces since World War II, including 54 new naval vessels and $8 billion for a new fleet of helicopters for the ADF.
Morrison said the Coalition planned to continue building the defence budget towards a target of 2 per cent of GDP.
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“Our policy continues to set out the significant investments that we are making to ensure our defence capabilities, our intelligence capabilities, our border protection capabilities, are strong and secure.”