News ID: 321128
Published: 0253 GMT April 19, 2022

China says it has signed security pact with Solomon Islands

China says it has signed security pact with Solomon Islands
TINGSHU WANG/REUTERS

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin

China said on Tuesday it has sealed a wide-ranging security pact with the Solomon Islands, an agreement the United States and its regional allies fear could give Beijing a military foothold in the South Pacific.

The confirmation came a day after Washington discouraged a security agreement between the countries, with top US diplomats headed to the South Pacific this week to curb Beijing's inroads, AFP reported.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Tuesday, “The foreign ministers of China and the Solomon Islands officially signed the framework agreement on security cooperation recently.”

He did not say when or where the signing took place.

A draft version of the agreement, leaked last month, rattled Western governments with provisions allowing for Chinese security and naval deployments to the crisis-hit Pacific island nation.

According to the draft, armed Chinese police could be deployed at the Solomon Islands' request to maintain "social order".

Australia is concerned the agreement could see Beijing establish a military presence less than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) away.

Wang on Tuesday accused Western powers of "deliberately exaggerating tensions" over the pact, and questioned the motives behind US officials' upcoming visit.

The security deal represents a "normal exchange and cooperation between two sovereign and independent countries," Wang said.

"Attempts to interfere and obstruct the cooperation of island countries with China are... doomed to fail," he added at a regular press briefing.

"The broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of PRC military forces to the Solomon Islands," US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday.

The signing of the pact "could increase destabilisation within the Solomon Islands and will set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific Island region," he added.

The White House's high-level delegation to the Solomons is expected to discuss its concerns, as well as the reopening of the US Embassy in the former British protectorate's capital, Honiara.

Earlier this month, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja travelled to Honiara to ask the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Manasseh Damukana Sogavarein not to ink the deal.

The Solomon Islands' switch of diplomatic recognition from self-ruled Taiwan to Beijing in 2019 unlocked huge amounts of Chinese investment, but the issue has been fraught with tensions.

The island nation of 800,000 has been wracked by political and social unrest, and many of its people live in poverty.

 

 

 

 

 

   
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