Amid a regional response, the Solomon Islands said it would not allow Chinese military bases in the Pacific island nation despite its plans to sign a security pact with Beijing.
A day after officials from both countries began drafting an agreement on security, the office of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Friday the agreement did not invite China to set up military bases.
“The government is aware of the security impact of hosting a military base, and it will not be negligent to allow such initiatives to take place under its supervision,” a statement said.
Sogavare did not release details of the security deal with China, amid concerns sparked by a leaked draft allowing Chinese naval vessels to refill on the island. The ministers have not yet signed it.
The leader of the Allied States of Micronesia on Thursday urged the Solomon Islands not to sign the security pact, saying he had “serious security concerns” and feared the Pacific could be embroiled in a war between China and the United States.
New Zealand has also warned against the alliance, which it says could disrupt long -established regional security cooperation. Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton on Friday said he respected Sogavare’s perspective but urged caution.
China has established 20 military presence points in the South China Sea despite telling the United States it will not encroach on the region, and Canberra worries Beijing is on the same route in the Pacific islands, Dutton said in an interview with Sky News.
“They want a military port in PNG [Papua New Guinea]. They have one in Sri Lanka, and they see clearly elsewhere where they can put it, ”he said.
China’s military base in the Solomon Islands will prompt Australia to significantly increase its military deployment to the region as the island is very close to Australia, he said.
“The Chinese are very aggressive. The tactics they use to the small island nation are quite unusual,” he added.
China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday “China-Solomon Islands security cooperation does not target any third party and does not conflict with other countries”, and the agreement covers social order, protecting lives and property, and natural disaster response.
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