According to ABC News, a major Chinese aviation company, AVIC, has promised the Solomon Islands to upgrade over 30 airstrips in the island as part of a plan to transform the country into a “regional [aviation] hub.”

The document, part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), was signed in November 2019, just a few months after the Pacific Island country stopped its diplomatic relations with Taiwan and switched to Beijing.

The MOU reads, “Solomon wishes to be part of the regional airline concept where Honiara would receive direct flights from China and become a regional hub.”

The document further reveals that the Solomon Islands government would buy six airplanes from AVIC in return.

AVIC is on the U.S. Department of Defense list for having ties to the Chinese military.

However, no evidence shows that any of the plans have started. An expert told ABC that the plan was delayed due to COVID as the document was signed right after the start of the pandemic.

According to ABC News, even the CEO of Solomon Airlines, Brett Gebers, was unaware of the agreement.

Several countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the World Bank, provide funding for airport infrastructure in the Solomon Islands.

China and Solomon signed the security deal last week. The text of the agreement has still been kept secret.

Many countries, including the U.S., Australia, Japan, and Taiwan, have raised concerns over the security deal.

The U.S. sent a delegation to the island and discussed the reopening of a U.S. embassy after learning the news.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said Canberra was “deeply disappointed” by the deal and was not reached transparently.

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