Even if the Solomon Islands signs a planned security deal with China that Australia rejects, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Sunday that Australia would continue to collaborate with the Pacific island nation on security issues.
Canberra is concerned that the security agreement, which has not been made public, could signal a Chinese military presence within 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) of Australia.
Despite the Australian government being in caretaker mode due to a national election campaign, an Australian official met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in Honiara this week and asked him not to sign the proposed pact.
When asked if Australia would continue to cooperate with the Solomon Islands on security matters if the contract went through, Payne told media, “Yes, that is absolutely my view and the view of Pacific partners.”
“However, there is worry about a lack of openness in relation to this arrangement,” Payne added.
She called Sogavare’s recent promises that no Chinese military installation would be created in the Solomon Islands if the deal with China went through “extremely crucial.”
The security deal has been initialled but not signed by officials from China and the Solomon Islands, which has been criticised by Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and some Pacific island neighbours as jeopardising regional stability.
The pact has alarmed US allies Australia and New Zealand, who are concerned about Chinese influence in a region where they have long held dominance.
Beijing said this week that security ties between the Pacific island and China were not directed at any third parties and did not contradict the Solomon Islands’ cooperation with other countries.