Australia said Sunday it will help boost security in neighboring Solomon Islands by sending additional personnel to cover both the Pacific Games in November and next year’s general elections.
Australian security staff were first deployed to the capital Honiara in November 2021 after anti-government rioting, working alongside personnel from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand as well as the local police force.
“At the request of the Solomon Islands Government, Australia has extended its contribution to the Solomons International Assistance Force (SIAF) until June 2024 to assist with security for the national general elections,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said in a statement.
“Australia is proud to be Solomon Islands’ primary security partner, and will also deploy additional security personnel to support the Pacific Games in Honiara.”
Sending more Australian personnel comes after Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signed a new pact with Beijing in July allowing China to maintain a police presence in the developing South Pacific nation until 2025.
Australia’s longstanding security pact with the Solomons was put under review by Sogavare in June, stoking fears it was drifting closer to China’s orbit.
Around 5,000 athletes from 24 nations are expected to take part in the fortnight-long Pacific Games from November 19 in Honiara.
General elections due to be held in early 2024.
China built the main stadium and other Pacific Games venues after Sogavare switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019.
Western powers were alarmed in 2022 after the Solomon Islands signed a secretive security pact with China.
Although details of that pact have never been released, it stoked concerns China could use it to establish a military foothold in the South Pacific.