China said on Tuesday, April 19, that it had signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, a move set to raise concerns from the U.S. and allies Australia and New Zealand about growing Chinese influence in the region.
Douglas Ete, chairman of Parliament’s public accounts committee, said that the agreements would increase trade, education, and fisheries cooperation. He opposed the idea of allowing China to set up a military base.
Solomon’s Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare also told Parliament that the security deal would not include a Chinese military base.
Ete told fellow lawmakers that Chinese officials would arrive in mid-May to sign the deal.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that State Councilor Wang Yi and Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele had recently signed the framework pact. However, the spokesperson did not reveal where or when the signing took place.
In response to the deal, the U.S. said it had concerns about “the lack of transparency and unspecified nature” of the deal.
The deal was signed before a high-ranking U.S. delegation would arrive in the Solomons’ capital, Honiara, this week to supposedly dissuade the Solomon Islands from the pact.
Australian officials said China seemed to pre-empt the upcoming visit of the U.S. delegation. During the trip, the U.S. would raise concerns about China and discuss the reopening of a U.S. embassy.
According to ABC News, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said Canberra was “deeply disappointed” by the deal, that it was not reached in a transparent way.