Solomon Islands won’t allow Chinese military base, PM’s office says



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By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Amid regional backlash, the Solomon Islands said they would not allow a Chinese military base in the Pacific archipelago, despite their plans to sign a security pact with Beijing.

A day after officials of the two countries initialed a draft agreement on security, the office of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Friday that the agreement does not invite China to establish a military base.

“The government is aware of the security implications of hosting a military base, and it will not be imprudent to allow such an initiative to take place under its supervision,” a statement said.

Sogavare has not released details about the security deal with China, amid concerns about a leaked design that would allow Chinese naval vessels to replenish the islands. The ministers have not yet signed it.

Asked about the most recent comments from the Solomon Islands, China’s Foreign Ministry said the “premise” of the security agreement is to ensure the safety of people and property.

“It has no military undertones,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Friday at a daily briefing.

“The relevant comments and speculation in the media are unfounded.”

Four people were killed in violent anti-government protests and much of the Chinatown neighborhood of Solomon Islands capital Honiara was destroyed during violent anti-government protests in November.

The leader of the Federated States of Micronesia on Thursday urged the Solomon Islands not to sign the security pact, saying he had “serious security concerns” and feared the Pacific could become embroiled in a war between China and China. the United States.

New Zealand has also warned about the pact, which it says could disrupt long-standing regional security cooperation. Australian Defense Secretary Peter Dutton said on Friday that he respects Sogavare’s perspective, but urged caution.

China had established 20 points of military presence in the South China Sea, despite telling the United States it would not militarize the region, and Canberra feared Beijing was on a similar path in the Pacific Islands. Ocean, Dutton said in an interview with Sky News.

“They want a military port in PNG [Papua New Guinea]† They have one in Sri Lanka, and they are clearly looking for other places to put it,” he said.

China offered to redevelop a naval base in Papua New Guinea in 2018, but Australia’s closest northern neighbor decided to let Australia develop the base.

A Chinese state-owned company operates the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota on a 99-year lease, although Sri Lanka has previously said the port cannot be used for Chinese military purposes.

A Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands would prompt Australia to significantly increase its military deployment in the region, as the islands are very close to Australia, Dutton said.

Australian Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said the security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China would undermine stability in the region.

“We do not believe it is necessary for countries outside the Pacific family to play a security role,” she said on local radio on Friday.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Additional reporting by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Gerry Doyle & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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