Solomon Islands and China confirm discussions on possible border security deal

The Solomon Islands government has confirmed it was “diversifying the country’s security partnership including with China,” and would sign off a number of agreements with China “to further create a secure and safe environment for local and foreign investments.”

Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare meets with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, October 2019

The growing relationship between the Pacific Island nations and China is evident from the fact that there have already been three successful China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forums. The parties have jointly promoted numerous cooperative projects on issues such as climate change, fisheries, covid-19 assistance and other matters.

In October 2021, the first China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held (via video link) little more than a week before the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow.

Speaking of bilateral economic cooperation at the Ministerial meeting, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted that China has signed cooperation documents for the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative with all 10 countries in the region that have built diplomatic relations with Beijing.

In relation to the current negotiations on the security partnership between the Solomon Islands and China, the Solomon’s government said in a statement that “Broadening partnerships is needed to improve the quality of lives of our people and address soft and hard security threats facing the country,”

The proposed security arrangements with China would cover humanitarian needs besides maintaining the rule of law, it added.

The nation needed to rebuild its economy after recent riots, and would sign an air services agreement with China and increase trade. Many suspect that the riots were encouraged by the US out of dissatisfaction with the Solomon Island government moves to form closer ties with China. Before the decision was made to move recognition of China from Tiawan, the Solomon Isands prime minister indicated an important motivation included Chinese assistance with strengthening security.

The Solomon Islands has signed a policing deal with China and will send a proposal for a broader security agreement covering the military to its cabinet for consideration, a Solomons Islands official told Reuters on Thursday.

Recently a contingent of Chinese police officers was deployed to the Solomon Islands to work with local authorities after last year’s deadly anti-government riots. Similar contingents of Australian and New Zealand police, as well as military personel, were also deployed.

The Solomon Islands formally established diplomatic relations with China in September 2019 after it cut ties with the island of Taiwan, and in October signed up the the Belt and Road Initiative. China is the largest single trading partner for the country in terms of its total trade volume.

The Pacific island countries and territories are highly vulnerable to climate change,  Climate change represents the most significant threat to the Pacific way of life, and it will exacerbate other challenges already affecting the region, putting at risk the development gains the region has made in recent years.

The proposed framework agreement between Solomon Islands and China comes at a time when the US main client state in the Pacific, Australia has belligerantly escalated its aggressive posture against China by promising to build additional naval bases for US warships, and planning to “acquire” US-UK operated nuclear submarines capable of attacking China, and also hosting expanded US troop contingents and US long range strategic bombers.

These destabilising and aggressive moves have caused great concern in other Asia Pacific nations, including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and most of the Pacific Island nations.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a media briefing on March 25, 2022 that this agreement was “in line with the international law and international practice, conducive to maintaining social order in the Solomon Islands and promoting peace and stability in the region, and helpful to enhance common interests of China and the Solomon Islands, as well as all countries in the region.” He urged Australia to “see this objectively and calmly, and refrain from over-interpreting it.”

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