Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware again expelled stating that the Pacific Nation would become an “enemy” if that happened.
Responding to concerns about the Solomon Islands security pact with China, Mr Sogaware reiterated in interviews with the Guardian, RNZ and SIBC that Australia remains “the Pacific nation’s preferred security partner.”
He also said that the agreement with Beijing does not include a military base, facility or institutions.
“I have already said and I will repeat again that it is not in anyone’s interests and not in the interests of the region to establish any military base in any Pacific island country, let alone the Solomon Islands,” he said. on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.
“The moment we set up a foreign military base, we immediately become an enemy.”
Mr Sogaware said Chinese security officials would only be called in to help if the Australian government failed to meet his country’s security requests.
“If there is any gap, we will not let our country go to the bottom. If there is a gap, we will turn to China for support,” he said.
“But we have made it very clear to the Australians, and many times when we talk to them, that they are the partner of choice…when it comes to security issues in the region, we will turn to them first.”
He said the Solomon Islands made sure that the agreement did not undermine the region’s security.
What do we know about the collateral agreement?
In April, China announced the signing of a security agreement with the Solomon Islands that rocked the Indo-Pacific and heightened geopolitical tensions.
The leaked draft raised fears that the pact would lead to China setting up a military base in the Solomon Islands, but Mr. Sogaware and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed the possibility of such a scenario.
Australia had previously asked the Solomon Islands not to sign the agreement, and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials later used bilateral talks with China to express “serious concern” about the pact.
On Thursday morning, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was confident there would be no security base.
What’s Happening at the Pacific Islands Forum?
Mr. Sogaware is currently meeting with leaders from other Pacific islands at a forum in Suva, Fiji.
On Wednesday, he met with Mr. Albanese for the first time since the signing of the pact, when the two leaders embraced.
Mr. Albanese told Mr. Sogawara that Australia and the Solomon Islands could do more to develop a “relationship of trust and understanding” between the two countries.
US Vice President Kamala Harris previously announced $600 million ($889 million) in Pacific Island funding, announcing that the US would appoint its first-ever envoy to the Pacific and launch its first national strategy. Two new embassies will also be opened.
On Thursday, Pacific leaders will meet behind closed doors to discuss a range of issues, including China’s influence, climate change and COVID-19.