0532 GMT May 26, 2022
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Saturday she met the Solomon Islands' Development Planning and Aid Coordination Minister Jeremiah Manele in the Australian east coast city of Brisbane as he transited through the airport on Friday night, according to AP.
“Australia has been consistent and clear in stating our respect for Solomon Islands’ sovereign decision-making, however we have reiterated our deep concerns about the security agreement with China, including the lack of transparency,” Payne’s office said in a statement.
Payne’s office said the two agreed that Australia remained the Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice and that the Solomon Islands would not host a foreign military base less than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) off Australia’s northeast coast.
Manele could not be contacted for comment on Saturday.
The United States has said it will take unspecified action against the Solomon Islands should the agreement with China pose a threat to U.S. or allied interests. The Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told Parliament this week that opponents of the security pact with China had threatened his country “with invasion”.
Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan told Australian Broadcasting Corp. the two ministers had a “very productive conversation.” Australia said a Chinese base on the Solomon Islands was not in the interests of the region, Tehan said.
The China-Solomon Islands security pact was announced last month.
After details of a draft pact were released, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, flew to the Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara, on April 12 to unsuccessfully ask the government to abandon it.
A draft of the pact, which was leaked online, said Chinese warships could stop in the Solomon Islands for logistical replenishment and China could send police and armed forces there “to assist in maintaining social order.” The Solomon Islands and China have not released the final version of the agreement.