Sydney, Australia, Mar 28 (EFE).- New Zealand’s prime minister said Monday that the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, which opens the door for Beijing to establish a naval base in the Pacific island nation, would mean the “militarization” of this strategic region.
“We see such acts as the potential militarization of the region and also see very little reason in terms of the Pacific security for such a need and such a presence,” Jacinda Ardern told public broadcaster Radio New Zealand.
She also described the security agreement between Beijing and Honiara – whose draft was leaked online – as “gravely concerning.”
The Australian government has also expressed concern about the pact, which proposes that the Chinese navy dock, refuel and stopover at the Solomon Islands, a country located 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) and 3,755 kilometers from Australia and New Zealand respectively.
Under the agreement, the Honiara government can ask Beijing to deploy police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces “to assist in maintaining social order, protecting people’s lives and property.”
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said Friday his country would be “concerned, clearly, about any military base being established.”
“We want peace and stability in our region. We don’t want unsettling influences and we don’t want pressure and exertion that we’re seeing from China continue (to) rollout in the region,” he added.
Australia, scheduled to hold general elections in May, has been a historical ally of the Solomon Islands, where violent protests occurred in November to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who in 2019 ended 36 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China.
The Solomon Islands are the third most populated nation in the South Pacific after Papua New Guinea and Fiji and one of the region’s poorest countries.
The nation of almost 1,000 islands has a population of about 650,000 inhabitants, most of Melanesian origin. There are also descendants of Polynesian, Micronesian, and Chinese ethnic groups.
Over 200 people lost their lives, and thousands got displaced in ethnic conflicts between rival armed groups in the archipelago between 1998 and 2003.
It led to the deployment of Australian-led peacekeeping forces between 2003 and 2013. EFE