United States Concerned After China Announced That It Has Signed A Security Pact With The Solomon Islands

China said on Tuesday, April 19, that it has signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, raising concerns among the US, Australia, and New Zealand about growing Chinese influence in an area that has traditionally been under their control.

Officials from the Solomon Islands, on the other hand, appeared to suggest that no agreement had yet been reached.

 

Chinese officials will arrive in mid-May to sign cooperation pacts, according to Douglas Ete, chairman of Parliament’s public accounts committee. A proposed security agreement, according to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, would not involve a Chinese military base.

 

Ete said the agreements will improve trade, education, and fisheries cooperation, but he was opposed to allowing China to build a military post.

 

The White House, which is sending a high-level US team to Honiara, the capital of the Islands, this week, expressed concern about the pact’s “lack of transparency and unspecified nature.”

 

China appeared to want to avoid the arrival of a US group in Honiara, which the White House claimed would raise concerns about China as well as the reopening of a US consulate, according to Australian sources.

 

The framework contract was just signed by State Councilor Wang Yi and Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele, according to Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin. He didn’t say when or where the signing happened.

 

The alleged signing “follows a trend of China giving murky, imprecise accords with little regional consultation in fisheries, resource management, development assistance, and now security practices,” according to a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council (NSC).

 

The US will “intensify its engagement in the region to meet 21st-century problems, ranging from maritime security and economic development to the climate catastrophe and COVID-19,” according to the NSC.

 

Concerns in Australia

 

Canberra is concerned that the deal may pave the way for a Chinese military presence less than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from its coastlines.

 

Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed Australia’s “deep disappointment” and stated that the country would continue to seek specifics on the agreement’s provisions, adding that the signing had been announced by China.

 

She also expressed concern about the lack of transparency in the pact, saying it had the “potential to destabilize regional stability.”

 

Sogavare is expected to make a statement in the following days, according to ABC, Australia’s national broadcaster.

 

Officials in the Solomon Islands had earlier initialed a security deal with the Chinese Embassy, allowing Chinese police to preserve infrastructure and social order, but ministers had yet to sign it.

 

Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, visited Honiara last week to encourage Sogavare not to sign.

 

Greg Poling, an Asia maritime security expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it was still not clear whether an agreement had been finalized.

 

“So the US delegation, as with the recent Australian delegation that visited, are trying to convince the Solomons’ government to reverse course if possible, or at least to clarify the details and plans for implementation if not,” he said.

 

“The language leaked last week is quite vague and so there’s plenty of room to mitigate damage by narrowing how it will be implemented.”

 

Last week, a leaked memo on social media revealed that Beijing had told the Solomon Islands in December that it wanted to send a team of ten Chinese police officers with weapons such as sniper rifles and machine guns, as well as listening devices, to protect embassy staff in the aftermath of riots in Honiara.

 

Chinese police would defend companies and infrastructure, while Chinese naval boats would refuel in Honiara, according to a separate leaked draft of a security contract.

 

The planned US visit has been rebuffed by Chinese spokeswoman Wang.

 

“Attempts to intentionally inflame emotions and mobilize competing camps will likewise fail,” he said.

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