China has announced the signing of a security pact with the Solomon Islands, despite the U.S. and Australia raising concerns over the landmark deal that could result in China setting up a military base in the South Pacific country, close to Australia.
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In a press briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade Jeremiah Manele signed the inter-governmental framework agreement on security cooperation between the two countries.
According to the agreement, the two countries “will conduct cooperation in such areas as maintenance of social order, protection of the safety of people’s lives and property, humanitarian assistance and natural disaster response, in an effort to help the Solomon Islands strengthen capacity building in safeguarding its own security,” as reported by Xinhua News Agency.
The news comes amid concerns from Australia, the US and New Zealand that the agreement would include the setting up of a military base, similar to the deal that China struck with the African nation Djibouti in 2017. But the Pacific island nation has clarified that there was no such clause in the deal. Details of the pact are yet to be made public.
A U.S. delegation led by Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell will fly to the capital Honiara this week, according to the US. Discussions on the deal, as well as the reopening of a US embassy, are expected. The US officials are expected to travel to the country to put pressure on the island nation to nullify the deal.
According to the BBC, security analysts say the pact reveals China's clear intention in the region for the first time.
Australia's foreign minister Marise Payne said her country was “disappointed” and “concerned about the lack of transparency with which this agreement has been developed, noting its potential to undermine stability in our region”. ■