An Australian Minister met with the Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister on Wednesday, April 13, asking the Pacific island not to sign a proposed security deal with China.
The meeting occurred between Zed Seselja, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, and Manasseh Sogavare, Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister.
In a statement following the meeting, Seselja said, “We have asked Solomon Islands respectfully to consider not signing the agreement and consult the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency, consistent with our region’s security frameworks.”
Under the draft agreement recently leaked online, China could send police, military personnel, and other armed forces to the island “to assist in maintaining social order.”
Moreover, it could also send warships to Solomons for stopovers and to replenish supplies. This leads to speculation about the possibility of China establishing a naval base on the islands and widespread criticism from Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, among others.
During the meeting, Australian Minister Seselja also affirmed Australia as the Solomon Islands’ top development partner and announced that it would allocate 119 million dollars in support for the island this year.
Seselja said, “We welcome recent statements from Prime Minister Sogavare that Australia remains the Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice, and his commitment that Solomon Islands will never be used for military bases or other military institutions of foreign powers.”