The Pacific island nation confirmed last week that it would expand its security ties with China, calling for caution from regional leaders who are wary of Beijing’s expansion.
“I think it’s very insulting to be branded as unfit to control our sovereignty,” Manasseh Sogavale said in parliament on Tuesday, addressing international backlash. partner. “
“The security treaty is at the request of the Solomon Islands and we are not under any form of pressure from our new friends,” he added. .. “
He also criticized the Australian media that Beijing plans to build a military base in the Solomon Islands-the first possibility for China in the Pacific region, which Canberra considers its backyard.
In a statement on Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office is working to approve and implement many development frameworks with China to further create a safe and secure environment for domestic and foreign investment by the government. I have. “
Sogavale further defended the move on Tuesday, telling Congress that “to move towards our security needs, we need to diversify … we are in a country with limited security capabilities. Yes, and it’s clear that we always need help. “
However, potential arrangements have raised concerns from several countries, including the United States and Australia. These countries are increasingly wary of China’s expanding footprint in the region.
For decades Australia has enjoyed a strong influence among the Pacific Islands as a wealthy donor to support aid-dependent countries, but in recent years China has also become a major player in the region, with billions of dollars. Investing in these small islands is the center of a heated power struggle.
These tensions only increased when China strengthened its maritime capacity and militarized islands in the South China Sea.
Australia has an existing security agreement with the Solomon Islands and is valid from 2018. This allows Australian police, defense and civilians to quickly deploy to the island in the event of a security threat.
“As Australia develops and deepens its ties with all its partners, including China, it will continue to maintain its security agreement with Australia,” the Solomon Islands government said in a statement on Friday.
Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton expressed concern on Friday that a security agreement with Beijing could ultimately lead China to expand its military presence in the region.
Morrison told reporters that the deal was “a concern in the region,” but he added that it was not surprising. Remind us of the constant pressures and threats that exist in our region against our own national security. “
New Zealand also expressed “strong condemnation” in a statement Tuesday, adding a partnership that could “risk to destabilize current institutions and arrangements that have long secured the security of the Pacific region.”
The Solomon Islands most recently established diplomatic relations with Beijing, and in 2019 the government approved mainland China rather than Taiwan. This is a decision that the government has faced pressure from its citizens.
This was one of the problems that arose during a fierce protest in Honiara, the capital, where Australia deployed police and defense personnel to assist local governments last November.
In Sogavale’s Tuesday remarks, he said that both New Zealand and Australia are still important bilateral partners and wrote letters and text messages to Morrison on this topic.
Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin did not directly answer questions about the pending security agreement on Friday, while China and the Solomon Islands “regular law enforcement and security on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. We will cooperate. “
Additional reports by CNN’s Simone McCarthy and Lizzy Yee.