Solomon Islands: China of all places instead of Australia

Status: 05/20/2022 5:50 p.m.

For a long time, Australia has been a power of assistance and protection for the Solomon Islands. Then Prime Minister Sogavare felt slighted and signed a security agreement with China. It’s explosive for Australia – beyond the general election.

By Lena Bodewein, ARD Studio Singapore

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is offended: “It’s extremely insulting and totally unacceptable,” he told the Solomon Islands parliament. “We are treated like kindergarteners running around with a Colt .45 in our hands and therefore need to be supervised.”

Lena Bodewein

What happened? The Solomon Islands are a small island country in the Pacific 2000 kilometers northeast of Australia. And for decades, the big neighbor has been a helper, a protector, an influencer.

In recent years, however, Prime Minister Sogavare has felt neglected by Australia – and has turned to another country that wants more influence in the Pacific: China. Of all things. Because the relationship between China and Australia is currently very tense.

Secret security deal with China

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is trying to keep his cool: “We need to be calm and level-headed when dealing with these issues. Prime Minister Sogavare has signed a secret security agreement with the Chinese government.

But the Solomons were closing in so closely that China could potentially set up a military base right under Australia’s nose. And just before the election in Australia, Prime Minister Morrison needs to be seriously questioned about how this happened. His answer :

This came as no surprise to us…so we are now handling this situation responsibly with our partners – to protect Australia’s security interests first, but also those of the Solomon Islands. We are very concerned about the Solomon Islands. And we are very concerned about security in the South West Pacific.

“The Thief Who Calls Theft”

China is trying to expand its influence in the Pacific by establishing a growing presence in the South Seas islands – through infrastructure, credit diplomacy, loans and security pledges. So also in the Solomon Islands.

A draft security agreement was made public in March; according to this, the Chinese police, armed police, army and other emergency services should be able to be deployed in the Solomon Islands; In addition, with the agreement of the Solomon Islands, China should be able to dock there and supply ships.

Pacific neighbors like Australia and New Zealand see this as a potential militarization of the Pacific region. And it is precisely to these allusions that the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands reacts so offended.

“The sovereignty of the Solomon Islands is also sovereignty,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. “Individual Australian politicians should stop drawing everything in black and white and being the thief who says ‘Steal!’ calls.”

China is also maintaining its investment diplomacy in the Solomon Islands: Prime Minister Sogavare and Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Li Ming at the joint inauguration of a stadium in the capital Honiara.

Image: AFP

The United States is also courting now

When Australia, the United States and Britain signed the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal for Australia, China took it as a declaration of war and called the pact extremely irresponsible. The Solomon Islands security agreement appears to be China’s answer.

So far, the country has only one overseas military base – in Africa. The Solomon Islands are strategically located between Australia, New Zealand and US bases in the Pacific. The United States quickly courted the Solomon Islands and announced that it would reopen its embassy in the country.

Prime Minister tries kindness

Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister, tries to be nice ahead of the weekend’s election: “We have always been there for the people of the Solomon Islands and we always will be.”

It sounds friendly, but maybe not friendly enough for voters in Australia or the Solomon Islands. Because they are also – like most other Pacific islands – threatened by the climate crisis thanks to Australia’s pro-coal policy.

Leave a Comment