Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands has responded to concerns regarding his country’s expanding security relations with China by telling the US and Australia that they have nothing to worry about.
Sogavare addressed concerns during a press conference in Honiara, following his visit to China where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other high-ranking officials.
The prime minister emphasized the significance of the agreements signed during his trip, including a police cooperation plan aimed at enhancing law enforcement and security capabilities in the Solomon Islands with Chinese support.
Prime Minister Sogavare highlighted that the police cooperation plan, among the nine agreements and memorandums signed in China, serves to bolster collaboration on law enforcement and security matters.
The plan entails China’s commitment to provide necessary support to enhance the capacity of the Pacific nation’s police force.
Concerns Arise as Solomon Islands Deepens Ties with China
The Solomon Islands’ decision to forge deeper ties with China, following its switch in allegiance from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, has raised concerns about potential military build-up in the region.
Both the United States and Australia have expressed reservations regarding the transparency of the new police plan.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong voiced her concerns about the plan during a meeting with China’s top diplomat in Jakarta, emphasizing the importance of transparency and asserting that security is best ensured within the Pacific family.
The United States has also been actively engaged in countering China’s influence, including the establishment of an embassy in the Solomon Islands.
However, Prime Minister Sogavare rebuked the criticism from both countries, labeling it as interference in the internal affairs of his nation.
He stressed that China’s police support plan complements existing Australian and New Zealand police programs in the Solomon Islands and should not be a cause for fear or concern.
The Solomon Islands, with a population of 700,000 and located northeast of Australia, has become one of China’s notable successes in its efforts to expand its presence in the South Pacific.
The switch in allegiance from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019 strained the longstanding ties with the United States that date back to World War II.
Prime Minister Sogavare’s recent visit to China was aimed at injecting new momentum into the bilateral relationship and deepening mutual political trust, as stated by China’s Foreign Ministry.
Source: AP News