MELBOURNE, Australia – In a fiery speech confirming that the Solomon Islands have drafted a security deal with China, the island nation’s leader said on Tuesday the deal was “ready for signature” and criticized as “offensive” concerns by Australia and New Zealand that the pact could destabilize the region’s security.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s comments to parliament marked the first time he addressed the leak of a draft of the security agreement last week. The draft — shared by opponents of the deal and verified as legitimate by the Australian government — has sparked alarm in a region where concerns over China’s influence have been mounting for years.
The draft suggests that Chinese warships could pour into the country or Chinese troops could intervene domestically on the island in times of crisis, leaving them on Australia and New Zealand’s doorsteps.
The leaked document states that “The Solomon Islands may request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and military forces to the Solomon Islands to maintain social order and protect people’s lives and property. It required secrecy, noting, “Neither party may disclose the collaboration information to any third party.”
In his speech, Mr. Sogavare labeled those who had leaked the draft agreement as “madmen” and “agents of foreign interference.” He said the pursuit of “liberal hegemony” had failed and criticized foreign powers for assuming the Solomon Islands could not act in their own interests.
Mr Sogavare declined to provide further details on the contents of the deal, which he said had been finalized, but added that he had not been pressured by Beijing and “had no intention of asking China to set up a military base in the Solomon Islands.” to build”.
He insisted it was “utter nonsense” to say that China posed a security risk in the Pacific. “We find it very insulting,” he said, “to be branded as unfit to conduct our sovereign affairs or to have other motives to pursue our national interests.”
He said the needs of the Solomon Islands were greater than what a partner country could provide. Solomon Island’s foreign policy strategy was to be a friend to everyone and an enemy to no one, he said, and it wouldn’t get involved in any geopolitical conflict.
But Matthew Wale, the leader of the opposition party in the Solomon Islands parliament, said he feared the agreement could be used for anything. He added: “It has nothing to do with the national security of the Solomon Islands.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “We see such acts as the possible militarization of the region.”
Australian authorities have expressed concern about its potential to lead to the creation of a Chinese military base, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison lobbied Papua New Guinea and Fiji by telephone on Monday to press for the deal to be scrapped.
In a daily briefing on Monday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, dismissed concerns about the agreement, saying: “Relevant countries should seriously respect the sovereignty and independent decisions of the Solomon Islands rather than decide what others should do.” should and should not do themselves. important and condescending from a privileged position.”
Australia has been losing influence in the Solomon Islands and the wider region for years. The smaller Pacific countries have long complained about “Australia showing condescension, paternalism and in general a lack of respect,” said Tess Newton Cain, project leader of the Pacific Hub at Griffith University in Australia.
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Marriages and divorces. Faced with a rapidly rising divorce rate, China enacted a rule that forces married couples to undergo a 30-day cooling-off period before officially breaking up. The measure appears to have been effective in reducing divorce, but is unlikely to help with a demographic crisis fueled by a declining number of marriages.
Australian leaders have previously joked about rising sea levels in Pacific countries, saying countries would survive climate change because their workers “pick our fruit”.
Mr. Sogavare has long telegraphed his country’s shift to China. In 2019, he said the island would end its 36-year diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, the self-governing island China claims as its own, to establish official ties with Beijing.
The alarm raised by the security deal shows that countries like the United States need to become more involved in the region, said Mihai Sora, a researcher at the Lowy Institute and a former Australian diplomat stationed in the Solomon Islands.
“What Pacific Islands have been saying for many years as the reason they look beyond these traditional partnerships like Australia is that they aren’t looking for more help; they’re looking for economic relations, and that’s a story that China has been able to deliver much more convincingly,” he said.
Last month, on a visit to Fiji, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced that the United States would open an embassy in the Solomon Islands, after closing one in the 1990s.
dr. Cain, a professor at Griffith University, said of Mr. Sogavare: “He is the latest of a number of leaders in the Pacific who have made it very clear that while they recognize that there could be a major power struggle going on and that those major powers or maybe not an increasing and decreasing interest in the region, they see the region as a region of peace.”
“They don’t see themselves as prizes to fight for, and they don’t want to take sides or take sides.”
Damien Cave contributed reporting from Sydney, Australia.