CHINA DEAL HITS HARD

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Gov’t says it’s expanding its security cooperation with more countries

By JENNIFER KUSAPA

REPORTS of China signing off on a new security deal with Solomon Islands has sparked concerns in Australia and New Zealand.

A copy of the agreement was leaked online, Thursday, generating huge discussions across the region.

Anna Powles, a senior lecturer in international security and a Pacific diplomacy expert at New Zealand’s Massey University, said the draft agreement was “very significant”.

“The security agreement is one of the first of its kind in the Pacific; its scope is broad and suitably vague and its provisions range from maintaining public order through to protecting Chinese citizens and assets, and providing humanitarian and disaster relief,” Powles said.

“The agreement also contains several ambiguous and potentially ambitious provisions with geopolitical implications including that China is seeking logistical supply capabilities and material assets located in Solomon Islands to support ship visits.”

Powles said the agreement suggests logistics and supplies will be available in the Solomons to support the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

“If it comes under force, the agreement also contains references to China’s ‘own needs’, which could refer to China’s strategic interests; China’s pursuit of its strategic interests in the Pacific is of direct concern to Australia and its allies and partners.”

But the Government said the agreement was still a draft.

At the same time, it announced plans to expand the country’s security and economic engagement with more countries (See report on page 3).

Opposition leader Mathew Wale described the proposed security deal as “insensitive” (see report on page 3).

Yesterday, Island Sun was informed leaders of Australia and New Zealand consulted each other on the matter.

Australia on Thursday announced it is extending the Solomon International Assistance Force (SIAF), brought in to restore law and order after last November’s rioting, to December 2023.

Australia and New Zealand are concerned the agreement may pave the way for China building its military base here.

Among others, the draft security agreement stated China may, according to its own needs and with the consent of Solomon Islands, make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in and have stopover and transition in the Solomon Islands,” the draft framework agreement states.

“Solomon Islands may, according to its own needs, request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces to Solomon Islands to assist in maintaining social order, protecting people’s lives and property.”


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