China’s FM to visit Solomon Islands
The tour, which includes stops in Fiji and Papua New Guinea, coincides with efforts to cement China's Pacific ties.
China's Foreign Minister will visit the Solomon Islands this week, one month after signing a security agreement with the Pacific nation.
The stop at the Solomon Islands will be particularly closely watched amid worries in the United States and its close ally Australia over the nation's recent security deal with China.
The controversial security agreement between the countries, which made headlines in March after a draft was leaked, is among the agreements that are expected to be signed.
The Solomons' government confirmed, on Tuesday, that Wang Yi would visit Honiara with a "nearly 20-member delegation," calling the trip a "milestone".
On his account, Li Ming, China’s Ambassador to the Solomon Islands said, “The highlight of the visit is the signing of a number of key bilateral agreements with the national government.”
Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, said the Chinese Foreign Minister's one-day visit would be a "milestone" in the two countries relationship.
He added that his country eyes a “productive engagement” with China, “an important development partner at a very critical time in our history."
Wang will travel to Fiji after Honiara, then to Papua New Guinea the following week, with suggestions that the tour could also visit Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and Kiribati, though this part of the itinerary has not been set.
A more interventionist US?
It is worth mentioning that the Chinese tour was announced ahead of a meeting of US, Japanese, Australian, and Indian leaders at the Quad summit in Tokyo on Tuesday, with the goal of countering China's growing economic and military clout in the region.
Top US diplomats headed to the Solomon Islands and other Pacific island nations last month following China's security deal with the Solomon Islands.
While Beijing is no stranger to providing close partners with an economic and diplomatic lifeline, the role of the US raises the question of whether it is entering a new chapter of interventionism.