Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said Pacific island states are not anyone’s “backyard,” and Beijing had no plans to establish a military facility in the Solomon Islands. Wang made the statements late Thursday in the Solomon Islands, as he began a 10-day visit to seven Pacific island nations and East Timor that is being closely monitored by Australia and the United States.
Following a meeting with Jeremiah Manele of the Solomon Islands, Wang stated that all Pacific island states could determine which agreements to sign.
“Pacific island countries are all sovereign and independent countries, not someone’s ‘backyard’. Any smear campaign against China’s security cooperation with the Solomon Islands, Wang stressed, will fail.
Any smear campaign against China’s security cooperation with the Solomon Islands, Wang stressed, will fail.
According to a leaked text of the planned deal acquired by the Associated Press, Beijing is demanding a strong security presence in the region, with plans to train Pacific police personnel, collaborate on “conventional and non-traditional security,” and enhance law enforcement collaboration.
In the face of criticism, the Solomon Islands has stated that it would not approve a Chinese military facility.
China has already signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, but the lack of publicly available specifics has raised questions about whether the agreement would allow for a Chinese naval presence.
“The security cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands includes, at the request of the Solomon Islands, assistance to maintain social order according to law, protecting the safety of life and property, implementing humanitarian relief, and responding to natural disasters,” Wang said.
“The security cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands does not target third parties, and there is no intention of establishing military bases.”
He stated that China-backed Pacific island states in their efforts to deepen security cooperation and that China will begin cooperating with the Solomon Islands on law enforcement.
To oppose the move, Australia dispatched Foreign Minister Penny Wong to Fiji to build up support in the Pacific. Wong had just been on the job for five days after the Australian election and had just returned home from a meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday night.
Wong told Fijians that it was up to each island nation to determine what relationships they would make and what agreements they would sign, but he urged them to think about the advantages of remaining with Australia.
“Australia will be a partner that doesn’t come with strings attached nor imposing unsustainable financial burdens,” Wong said. “We are a partner that won’t erode Pacific priorities or Pacific institutions.”
“What we would urge, like Australia, is consideration of where a nation might wish to be in three or five or 10 years,” Wong said.
Wang was scheduled to spend four hours in Kiribati on Friday. Wang will visit Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea, as well as the Cook Islands, Niue, and the Federated States of Micronesia, for virtual discussions. He’ll also pay a visit to East Timor.