Asia Pacific

Australia Asks Solomon Islands to Not Sign China Security Pact

Australia on Wednesday asked Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to not sign a controversial security pact with China.

A leaked draft of the security agreement sent shockwaves across the region last month — particularly measures that would allow Chinese security and naval deployments to the Solomon Islands.

This pressed on long-held fears in the United States and its allies about the potential of China building a naval base in the South Pacific, which would allow Beijing to project its naval power far beyond its borders.

In a sign of the rising concern about the pact, which is close to being signed, Australia’s government dispatched Pacific Minister Zed Seselja to the Solomons capital Honiara to meet in person with the island nation’s prime minister.

Seselja said in a statement afterwards that he had asked Sogavare “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.”

“We welcome recent statements from Prime Minister Sogavare that Australia remains Solomon Islands security partner of choice, and his commitment that Solomon Islands will never be used for military bases or other military institutions of foreign powers.”

Seselja’s visit was the latest in a series of diplomatic entreaties to the Solomons.

It followed a call Tuesday between US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and the Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele about plans to reopen the American embassy in Honiara after 29 years.

The same day, during a call with the head of Australia’s foreign affairs department, Sherman “highlighted her concern about recent developments in the Indo-Pacific,” according to her spokesperson.

The Financial Times reported Saturday that the White House’s top Asia official, Kurt Campbell, was also set to visit the Solomons later this month.

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