Bangkok, May 25 (EFE).- New Zealand Wednesday announced the extension of its security deployment to the Solomon Islands until May next year, amid global concerns over China’s growing military presence in the South Pacific.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the decision in a statement.
Mahuta had a virtual meeting with Jeremiah Manele, her counterpart from the Solomon Islands, to discuss the extension of troop deployment, the New Zealand foreign minister said.
“Our partnership promotes peace, not only through security cooperation, but also by addressing economic challenges, climate change, and a range of other development needs,” Mahuta said.
She said New Zealand was committed to supporting security in the Solomon Islands and promoting a “peaceful, prosperous and resilient Pacific region.”
“As part of our ongoing security partnership with Solomon Islands, we have therefore extended the deployment of NZDF (New Zealand Defense Forces) personnel for 12 months, to be reviewed by May 31, 2023.”
New Zealand was to conclude its mission on Tuesday.
The New Zealand government sent more than 100 police personnel and soldiers to the Solomon Islands to restore peace and stability following civil unrest in November 2021 that killed at least three people.
Violence erupted after some 1,000 people protested 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.
As tempers rose, the police tried to quash riots in the vicinity of the parliament using tear gas and rubber bullets.
Protesters also pelted stones at and torched and looted Chinese businesses.
The announcement was made hours before the arrival of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Wang will meet Sogavare on Thursday.
In April, China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands that opens the possibility for Beijing to send security forces to the island nation if its government requests.
However, some regional nations and western countries have expressed fear that China will establish a naval base in the Pacific.
Honiara has dismissed the fear as unfounded.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Wednesday urged the United States to avoid “militarizing” the Pacific amid the Chinese minister’s trip, who plans to visit seven other regional countries. EFE