Australia PM express ‘Great concern’ over China-Solomon Islands deal

After Solomon Islands revealed it was forming a security cooperation with China, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed “grave worry” across the Pacific on Saturday.

As it diversifies security connections, the Pacific island government announced on Friday that it was boosting ties with China to confront security threats and provide a safe environment for investment.

A possible China-Solomon Islands security treaty has raised concerns among US allies Australia and New Zealand about Chinese influence in a region where they have long wielded authority.

“There is significant anxiety across the Pacific family because we are in daily contact with our Pacific family,” Morrison said when asked about the situation by reporters in Sydney.

“Over the course of this weekend, I will be in further meetings with leaders; there was a meeting yesterday with our head of mission and Prime Minister (Manasseh) Sogavare,” he said.

Sogavare told Canberra on Friday that he appreciated Australia’s continued assistance for Solomon Islands, according to Morrison.

Morrison stated, “We are the Solomon Islands’ single largest development partner, daylight second, third, and fourth.”

After a draught paper outlining the potential cooperation was leaked this week, Australia expressed alarm about the impact on regional security of military cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands.

A Solomon Islands official told Reuters on Thursday that a security agreement with China covering the military would be handed to the country’s cabinet for approval. China has previously struck a policing agreement with the Solomon Islands.

In 2019, the Solomon Islands, a small island nation 1,240 miles northeast of Australia, transferred diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing, signalling China’s expanding power in the Pacific.

Last month, the United States announced the opening of an embassy in Honiara, the nation’s capital, amid concerns that China was aiming to develop military ties with the country.

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