Solomon Islands announces China security plan criticized by Australia

Sydney, Australia, Mar 29 (EFE).- Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced Tuesday he is working on a security agreement with China, seen as a threat by regional powers such as Australia and New Zealand.

Sogavare, in a speech to Parliament in Honiara, said he defended the future alliance with China as a sovereign decision of his government, adding that he does not want to get involved in “geopolitical power struggles” in the Pacific region.

“We do not belong to any external alliance, we do not want to choose any side,” Sogavare said, referring to recent criticism from Canberra, who described the plan as a “threat” to his nation, and Wellington, who warned of the “militarization” of the area.

The president, who survived a no-confidence vote in December after riots in the capital against his government, broke his historic alliance with Taiwan in 2019 to recognize China.

Solomon Islands, a historical strategic partner of Australia, has since turned its foreign policy and has been more favorable to Beijing, something that has caused tensions both with its traditional partners and within the country.

“We do not receive any kind of pressure from our new friends and there is no intention to ask China to build a military base in the Solomon Islands,” added the president, who called criticism of the security plan “insulting.”

The agreement, whose draft was leaked Thursday on social media and still has no ratification date, would allow the Solomon Islands to ask China for military assistance citing social order concerns.

There were violent protests in November in the country calling for Sogavare’s resignation which killed three people and led the government to request Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea for police assistance.

The opposition, which mostly prefers to recognize Taiwan and defends the alliance with Australia, questions the link of the plan with China and the defense of national interests, according to a statement quoted by the SIBS channel.

“It is clear that the China issue remains an unstable situation in our country due to the geopolitics that it entails. However, the prime minister seems determined to aggravate this situation, as reflected in this draft memorandum of understanding,” opposition leader Matthew Wale said.

This recent episode of instability was reminiscent of the ethnic disputes between rival armed groups that terrorized the nation between 1998 and 2003, causing more than 200 deaths and thousands of displaced people.

These confrontations forced the deployment between 2003 and 2013 of the Regional Assistance Mission for the Solomon Islands led by Australia, to pacify the country. EFE


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