The Solomon Islands announced Friday that it will not allow China to establish a military base in the Solomon Islands, in an attempt to calm international concerns about its new security alliance.
However, this insistence will not ease the concerns of the country’s traditional partners which include Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Micronesia’s leader added to the chorus of those who were trepidatious by referring to the bloody battles from World War II and warning that the South Pacific could become a battlefield for larger powers.
Thursday’s Solomon Islands government statement stated that a draft agreement for the new security pact was inked by representatives of China and Solomons. It would then be “cleaned up and signed”.
Friday’s statement by the Solomon Islands government stated that the agreement was not intended to invite China to build a military base.
The statement stated that the government was aware of the security implications of hosting a military base and would not allow such an initiative to be taken without its approval.
After Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare having earlier stated to parliament that it did not intend to ask China to build a base, the statement seemed to be more definitively excluding the possibility of one.
Sogavare stated that his country seeks peace and prosperity. He cited its foreign policy mantra, “We are friends with all and enemies of none.”
The draft agreement allows China to send troops, police and military personnel to the Solomon Islands, “to help maintain social order” and for other purposes. China could also send warships to islands to replenish supplies and stopovers, as was speculated previously.
China denied seeking a military foothold on the islands, and others were accused of raising tensions.
According to Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian said that the U.S. and its allies militarized the South Pacific. He claimed that the agreement with Solomon Islands was based on the safety of people and property and had no military overtones.
Zhao stated that “individual countries are determined to create a militarized coterie, and seriously threaten regional security and stability through the introduction of nuclear proliferation into South Pacific,” during a daily briefing.
Zhao stated that Zhao had merely trampled on the stability mechanism and caused irreparable damage to it.
China’s Defense Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request.
Micronesia President David Panuelo wrote to Sogavare expressing concern about Micronesia’s “novel, unprecedented” arrangement.
He stated that the two small countries had been battlegrounds during World War II, and that this could happen again if China, Australia and the U.S. assert themselves in the region.
Panuelo wrote that he believed that once the spheres were carved out, our concerns about climate changes — today’s issue — would become all-too-real concerns regarding a war in our backyards with our people, our island as the playground for adults playing as children.”
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton stated Friday that, while the Solomons were respected by Australia, the agreement showed that China was aggressively acting in the region.
Sky News’ Xi said that China is extremely aggressive and the tactics they use to invade small islands nations are remarkable.
Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, has described this week’s possibility of Chinese military forces being stationed in the Solomon Islands as “the possible militarization of that region.” The U.S. State Department also stated that Washington does not believe China’s security force and methods should be exported.
Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, stated Thursday that all parties should look at China-Solomon Islands’ security cooperation objectively. He also suggested that they stop making irresponsible comments.
Wang stated that attempts to provoke, obstruct or undermine China’s friendly relations towards the island countries are not popular and would not succeed at a daily briefing.
“China-Solomon Islands cooperation doesn’t target any third parties and is not in conflict to Solomon Islands’ cooperation. He said that it was a complement to existing regional cooperation mechanisms and a positive step.”
The Solomon Islands, which is home to approximately 700,000 people, changed its diplomatic allegiance to Beijing from Taiwan in 2019. This was a contributing factor in the riots that occurred in November 2018 between residents on different islands.
Since 2017, Australian police have maintained peace in Honiara’s capital. This is in compliance with a bilateral security agreement. This agreement provides legal grounds for rapid deployment of Australian troops, police and civilians to assist in major security challenges.
Chinese police have already arrived on the islands to conduct a training mission.
About 100,000 people call the Federated States of Micronesia home. It maintains diplomatic relations with China and considers itself to be a “friend” for China. The United States also has a close relationship under a compact on free association.