Sydney, Australia, Apr 13 (EFE).- Australia asked the Solomon Islands, a strategic Pacific island nation, to reconsider signing a security pact it is close to signing with Beijing despite Canberra’s concerns.
The pact, according to leaked documents, includes the possibility of sending Chinese security forces to maintain order if requested by the Solomon Islands government.
“We have respectfully asked the Solomon Islands to consider not signing the agreement and to consult with the Pacific family (of countries) in the spirit of regional openness and transparency, which is consistent with our security frameworks in the region,” Australian Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said Wednesday.
Seselja, on a two-day visit to the Solomon Islands since Tuesday, said Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare recently announced Australia is his preferred security partner and that the Salmon Islands would not serve as a military base for China or other nations.
However, Sogavare, who changed his foreign policy in 2019 after changing his alliance with Taiwan to recognize China, has also expressed his intention to diversify his security ties with other powers to face various threats, such as the climate crisis.
The potential signing of this pact generates concern in Australia, such as New Zealand and other island countries, which fears a militarization of the region and has seen China for years as a threat to its influence in the Indo-Pacific island nations.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday concerning the negotiations between Canberra and Honiara – where he sent two intelligence chiefs this month – that his government respects the Solomon Islands’ independence and sovereignty amid a potential pact with China.
“What we have done is make sure that they are fully aware of the risks and security issues that are of concern not only to Australia, but also to islands and nations across the Pacific,” Morrison told reporters.
Sogavare’s governmental turn toward China has also caused discomfort in the opposition in his country and violent protests in November, resulting in three deaths and Honiara’s request that Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea send security personnel to the country.
Another leaked document shows China requested to send weapons and agents for the protection of its diplomats in Honiara, but this was rejected. EFE