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After China’s Base Plan In Solomon Islands Leaks, Australia Raises Concerns


Chinese military base in Solomon Islands raises concerns over neighbor, Australia (Representative)

Sydney:

The Australian defense minister said on Friday any move to set up a Chinese military base in the neighboring Solomon Islands would be worrisome, after draft security documents between Beijing and Honiara were leaked online.

Reuters confirmed with Solomon Islands government officials on Thursday that a security deal with China should go to the cabinet for talks, and would match a security agreement signed with Australia allowing the deployment of troops to Honiara.

The Australian security agreement was signed before the Solomon Islands changed diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019.

The potential for Chinese military ships based in Australian neighborhoods has sparked concern in Canberra, which clashed verbally with Beijing last month after Chinese naval ships passing through Australia’s northern economic exclusion zone targeted laser pointers at Australian surveillance aircraft.

Defense Minister Peter Dutton said in an interview with Channel Nine that Australia has 50 police in the Solomon Islands at Honiara’s request and they will remain there until 2023.

“We will be concerned, obviously, at any military base that is established and we will express it to the Solomon Islands government,” he said.

“We want peace and stability in the region. We don’t want disruptive influence and we don’t want the pressure and coercion we see from China to continue to be unleashed in the region.”

Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands Lachlan Strahan said on Twitter he had met Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Wednesday, a day before the draft security pact was leaked online, to pledge A $ 21 million ($ 15.8 million) in aid, and construction of two berths for the Island patrol boat Solomon.

The Australian federal police commissioner had also traveled to Honiara to meet his counterpart in January, after Australia took part in a multinational police force in November to restore public order after the riots, at Sogavare’s request.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the security pact talks between the Solomon Islands and China were “one of the most important security developments we have seen in decades and it is one that undermines Australia’s national security interests”.

The draft agreement will make Honiara available to Chinese naval and intelligence vessels, he said.

“When you have a country that is close to Australia’s own territorial coast like the Solomon Islands … this is a big change in Australia’s immediate strategic environment,” he told ABC radio.

The Pacific Island nation of less than a million people is located 2,000 km (1,240 miles) northeast of Australia, which has experienced worsening diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Canberra has adhered to the doctrine for decades, under the ANZUS agreement with the United States, to ensure the Pacific island nation is compatible with the security interests of Australia and the U.S., Rudd said.

Dutton rejected suggestions from the Opposition Labor party that Australia had “dropped the ball” on support for the Pacific region, and pointed to recent aid given to Tonga in the wake of the volcanic disaster.

Labor defense spokesman Richard Marles said the Pacific should be the focus of Australia’s foreign policy, so Australia was the “natural partner of choice in matters of security”. Australia will hold general elections in May.

Australia has offered A $ 2 billion in infrastructure funding to Pacific islands to counter the growing influence of Chinese aid.

Australia is funding a fiber -optic submarine cable linking the Solomon Islands to Australia, replacing Chinese telecommunications company Huawei’s offer in 2018, amid concerns the cable laid by China will jeopardize regional security.

China has imposed a series of trade restrictions on Australian exports ranging from wine to coal tensions between the two countries have worsened in recent years.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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