Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Australian Home Affairs Minister: China very likely to keep troops in Solomon

Australia’s home minister said on Wednesday that China is “very likely” to deploy troops to the Solomon Islands after signing a controversial security deal with the Pacific nation.

The deal was announced by Beijing on Tuesday, weeks after a draft version was leaked on social media, and is expected to open up the possibility of a Chinese military presence in the South Pacific.

When asked how realistic it was that China would ask to deploy troops to the Solomon Islands within the next year, Home Secretary Karen Andrews told the radio 4BC That it is “very likely”.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware has repeatedly said that no Chinese military base will be built in his country under the security agreement, but has not announced a final version of the deal.

The leaked draft deal contained provisions that would allow Chinese security and naval forces to be stationed in the Solomon Islands, including a statement that “Chinese troops” would have the right to protect Chinese personnel and the security of key projects .

Andrews questioned Beijing’s decision to announce the deal ahead of Australia’s federal election on May 21, which has dominated debate over Pacific foreign policy and diplomacy.

“Beijing is clearly very aware that we are in a federal election campaign right now,” he said. “We are talking about political interference and it takes many forms.”

The announcement of the security deal by Beijing also comes a few days before US officials visit the Solomon Islands.

One of Australia’s top intelligence officials expressed concern late Tuesday about a possible Chinese police presence in the Pacific nation, which was rocked by violent protests last November as anti-China sentiment grew.

Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue in India, Andrew Shearer, Director General of the Australian Office of National Intelligence, described the Solomon Islands as a “fragile and unstable country”.

He added that Chinese police tactics were “rigorously practiced in Hong Kong, and could trigger further instability and violence”. [ab/uh]

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