World

Chinese FM to visit Solomon Islands amid security pact worry

May 25, 2022 7:00 am

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit the Solomon Islands this week in what the South Pacific nation’s leader says was a “milestone” in his country’s relationship with China.

Amid concerns over their security pact that could allow Chinese military personnel on the islands.

But Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare insisted in a statement posted on his government’s website yesterday that the partnership with Beijing does not come at the expense of ties with Australia, the United States and others.

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The visit of Wang at the head of a 20-person delegation tomorrow and Friday comes amid growing concerns about China’s influence in the strategically important Solomon Islands. Wang will be the highest-ranking Chinese representative to visit the country since the two nations formalised diplomatic relations 32 months ago, the Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs Ministry said, after Sogavare switched recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.

The security agreement, signed in April, would allow Beijing to send police and military personnel to Solomon Islands “to assist in maintaining social order” and let Chinese warships make port calls for “logistical replenishment”.

That has raised fears of a possible Chinese naval base on the doorstep of Australia and New Zealand.

Sogavare, who defends the pact as entirely about “internal security”, said Wang’s visit would include the signing of a number of “key bilateral agreements”.