China, Solomon Islands ink security pact
The United States and Australia have long been concerned about the potential for China to build a naval base in the South Pacific, and now the "threat" is there.
The Solomon Islands on Thursday said it had inked a wide-ranging security pact with Beijing.
The PM’s office in Honiara issued a statement that read, "Officials of Solomon Islands and the People's Republic of China have initialed elements of a bilateral Security Cooperation Framework between the two countries today.”
It is now awaiting the signature of the two countries' foreign ministers.
A draft version of the agreement detailed measures to allow Chinese security and naval deployments to the Pacific island nation.
It included a proposal that "China may, according to its own needs and with the consent of the Solomon Islands, make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands".
It would also allow armed Chinese police to deploy at the Solomon Islands' request to maintain "social order".
The "forces of China" would also be allowed to protect "the safety of Chinese personnel" and "major projects in the Solomon Islands".
The United States and Australia have long been concerned about the potential for China to build a naval base in the South Pacific.
Any Chinese military presence would likely force Canberra and Washington to change their military posture in the region.
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Earlier, in his first comments to Parliament on the proposed treaty, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare termed international criticism of the country's security discussions with China "insulting" and those who leaked the draft deal "lunatics".
“We find it very insulting, Mr. Speaker, to be branded as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs," Sogavare said Tuesday.
A proposed security pact between China and the Solomon Islands has sparked concern around the Pacific, notably in Australia and New Zealand. The neighbors are claiming it might jeopardize regional stability.
Sogavare would provide any other information on the security agreement's contents, but when pressed later in Parliament about how far the talks had progressed, he stated that it was "ready for signing."
The PM slammed the Australian media for insinuating that China was forcing the islands into signing a treaty, slamming the assertions as "unfounded" and "very insulting".
Sogavare added that discussions in Australian media promoting an invasion of the Solomon Islands to compel a regime change do nothing to improve bilateral relations.