Sydney, Australia, Jul 12 (EFE).- Australia has called for transparency over a new security cooperation agreement signed between China and Solomon Islands, as the latter’s increasing proximity to Beijing has triggered concerns over an intensifying “regional contest,” Canberra’s foreign minister Penny Wong said in a statement.
“Solomon Islands and China should provide transparency of their intentions to Australia and the region by publishing the agreement immediately, so the Pacific family can collectively consider the implications for our shared security,” Wong’s spokesperson told Australian state broadcaster ABC late on Tuesday.
The minister also emphasized that the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum – which has 18 members including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and the Solomon Islands – have insisted time and again that security needs should be fulfilled by the “Pacific family.”
Wong, who is currently in Jakarta to take part in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), was responding to the new policing cooperation pact signed in Beijing by Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare along with eight other agreements to strengthen ties with China.
Moreover, the government led by Sogavare, who reestablished diplomatic ties with Beijing in 2019 after breaking an alliance with Taiwan, had also signed a security pact with China in 2022, that was negotiated behind closed doors and includes the possibility of Chinese security forces being deployed in the Solomon Islands at Honiara’s request.
The agreement had rung alarm bells in the United States and regional powers such as Australia and New Zealand, due to the possibility that the treaty would allow the construction of a Chinese military base in the South Pacific nation, a scenario denied by Sogavare, who insists that he is “friends to all, enemy to none.”
Recently, Washington, Canberra and Wellington have made efforts to regain their influence in the otherwise forgotten Pacific region, intensifying cooperation on several fronts, especially by addressing regional concerns over the fight against climate change and security.
As part of these efforts, Australia – the biggest power in the Pacific and a strategic US ally – sent its defense minister Richard Marles to the Solomon Islands in June to discuss keeping a permanent mission of its security forces in the nation, as the current deployment’s tenure is set to expire by the end of this year.
Australia had deployed the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force to the archipelago after anti-government riots in 2021, in which three people were killed, as part of a security pact signed between Honiara and Canberra in 2017, which includes the deployment of Australian soldiers and police at the request of the former. EFE