Australian general says Chinese military presence in Solomon Islands would force ADF to reconsider

One of the ADF’s top officers has warned that if China succeeds in stationing warships in the Solomon Islands, it would alter the Australian military’s calculations, forcing a change in defense operations.

Concerns are growing that Honiara and Beijing will soon sign a new security pact allowing Chinese personnel and equipment to be stationed in the Pacific country less than 2,000 kilometers off the coast of Queensland.

This week, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare defended the draft agreement, but stated there was no plan to allow China to build a naval or military base in his country, saying the suggestion was “misinformation”.

The head of the armed forces’ joint operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, said any stationing of People’s Liberation Army and navy ships there would have implications for Australia’s military operations.

“It changes the calculus when Chinese naval vessels operate from the Solomon Islands,” General Bilton said during a visit to the Australian Signals Directorate in Canberra.

“We would change our patrol patterns and our maritime awareness activities,” he added.

Earlier this year, Chinese police officers began supporting members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force just months after Australian Federal Police and ADF personnel were dispatched to Honiara following anti-government riots.

“We are in a situation where we will be present in the Solomon Islands and so are the Chinese who want to provide training and support to the same organization,” General Bilton said.

“It is an unusual circumstance for us to interact with the Chinese in Solomon Island and I think they will understand, and we will understand, how they intend to support the (Royal) Solomon Islands Police.”

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