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China and Solomon Islands sign security pact, Beijing confirms

China and Solomon Islands sign security pact, Beijing confirms

FILE PHOTO: Children fish at a beach in central Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, on September 14, 2012.. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

SYDNEY: China has signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday (Apr 19).

The agreement has sparked concerns among US allies Australia and New Zealand about Chinese influence in a region where they have for decades held strong sway.

The Pacific island nation switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taiwan in 2019. After it was rocked by anti-Chinese violence in November, China donated anti-riot gear and offered to send police advisers.

Last week, Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja travelled to Honiara to ask Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare not to sign the security framework agreement with China which Canberra fears could lead to a Chinese military presence in the Pacific islands.

The White House said on Monday that a high-level United States delegation including White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell will also travel to Honiara to discuss concerns over China, as well as the reopening of a US embassy.

On Tuesday, Honiara's parliament was told by Douglas Ete, chairman of the public accounts committee and lawmaker for East Honiara, that Chinese foreign ministry officials would arrive next month.

"The PRC foreign affairs is heading to Honiara in the middle of May to sign multilateral agreements and cooperations with the Solomon Islands government," he said, referring to China.

Ete said the visit meant the two nations would increase trade, education and fisheries cooperation. He added that he rejected the idea of Solomon Islands signing a security pact with China to establish a military base.

Sogavare told parliament that the proposed security agreement would not include a Chinese military base.

Canberra is concerned that the security pact, details of which have not been made public, could be a step towards a Chinese military presence less than 2,000km from Australia.

Sogavare's office said that it could not confirm which Chinese officials would travel to Honiara.

Source: Reuters/kg

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