Australia accuses China of interfering in May 21 elections

Sydney, Australia, Apr 30 (EFE).- Prime Minister Scott Morrison, seeking re-election in the May 21 polls, Saturday accused China of trying to interfere in the elections after a minister said Beijing had deliberately timed the signing of a controversial security pact with the Solomon Islands.

“We are very aware of the influence the Chinese government seeks to have (in Australia). So any suggestion that China, the Chinese government doesn’t seek to interfere in Australia, well, we didn’t put that legislation in for no reason,” Morrison told reporters in Tasmania.

“We put it in there to ensure that Australians’ security could be safeguarded from foreign influence in our own country.”

The remarks came after Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews suggested that China had deliberately timed the signing of its security pact with the Solomon Islands to coincide with the Australian federal elections.

Andrews spoke during an interview with radio 4BC.

The minister said Beijing was aware that “we are in an election campaign right now.”

“Why now, why right in the middle of a federal election campaign is all of this coming to light,” she said during the radio interview.

“We talk about political interference and that has many forms. So, I think we need to be aware of what Beijing is doing and what it is trying to achieve, what its plans are, what it is trying to achieve in the actions it is taking in the Solomon Islands, but not exclusively in the Solomon.”

The agreement, whose draft details were leaked in March on social media channels, opens the possibility for Beijing to send security forces at the request of the Solomon government.

The pact has sparked fears in the region and the west about a possible Chinese military presence in the Pacific.

The United States and its several allies in the region had urged the Solomon Island government not to go ahead with the agreement, which has raised fears that China might establish a naval base in the Pacific.

Honiara brushed off the concerns and dismissed the fears, saying the agreement with China was to respond to “Solomon’s soft and hard domestic threats.”

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the country would uphold its “friends to all and enemies to none” foreign policy. EFE


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