Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit the Solomon Islands this week, which the South Pacific nation’s leader said was a “milestone” in his country’s ties with China, amid concerns that his new security pact will be on the islands. The Chinese may allow military personnel.
But Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware insisted in a statement posted on his government’s website on Tuesday that the partnership with Beijing does not come at the cost of ties with Australia, the United States and others.
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The visit of the head of a 20-member delegation on Thursday and Friday comes amid growing concerns about China’s influence in the strategically important Solomon Islands.
After Sogaware recognized Beijing from Taiwan, the Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wang would be the highest-ranking Chinese representative to visit the country since the two countries formalized diplomatic ties 32 months ago.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry later said that Wang would also visit Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor in the 10-day trip. While in Fiji, he will host a meeting with foreign ministers of Pacific island countries.
“It is believed that the meeting will play an important role in promoting solidarity and cooperation between China and the Pacific Island countries, and furthering the development of our relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing.
The security agreement, signed in April, would allow Beijing to send police and military personnel to the Solomon Islands “to help maintain social order” and let Chinese warships make port calls for “logistics replenishment”.
This has raised fears of a possible Chinese naval base on the doorstep of Australia and New Zealand.
Sogaware, who defends the agreement purely as “internal security”, said Wang’s visit would include the signing of several “major bilateral agreements”.
“Prime Minister Sogaware looks forward to a productive engagement with the PRC (People’s Republic of China) as an important development partner at a very critical time in our history,” said another statement issued on Monday.
Sogaware noted that a delegation from New Zealand was also due “in the coming months” and had hosted high-level visits from Australia, Japan and the US in April.
“My government welcomes all high-level visits from our key development partners,” Sogaware said in a statement posted on Tuesday.
“We will always remain true to our policy of ‘friend to all and foe to none’ as we look forward to continuing productive relationships with all our development partners.”
News of the visit came as US President Joe Biden met in Tokyo with members of the “quad” group of nations – the US, Japan, Australia and India – which has become increasingly relevant as the US discusses security in the Indo-Pacific. emphasizes. Counter the growing influence of China.
These meetings included the newly elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, whose centre-left Labor Party had promised to establish a Pacific Defense School to train neighboring forces in response to China’s potential military presence on the Solomon Islands.
Labor has denounced the security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands as Australia’s worst foreign policy failure in the Pacific region since World War II.
After Albanese’s victory, Sogaware congratulated him, assuring the new prime minister that “the Solomon Islands remains Australia’s steadfast friend and development partner of choice.”
The US, Australia and others urged the Solomon Islands not to sign a deal with China as it could destabilize the country and set a related precedent for the wider Pacific.
Chinese spokesman Wang said China expects the US to “abstain from interfering in the sovereign decisions of South Pacific island nations on general cooperation with other countries.”
China pushed back last week over allegations that the treaty was being used to pressure countries in the Pacific, with another foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, saying it was based on mutual respect, and was based on “common interests.” Conformity is conducive to stability and peace in the South Pacific.”
“Australia claims the Solomon Islands as its backyard and wants to establish a red line,” Zhao said. “Isn’t that coercive?”
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