BY JENNIFFER KUSAPA
PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare says the controversial security treaty with China will be made public after further consultations with Beijing.
Sogavare stated this when responding to Opposition leader Mathew Wale in parliament yesterday.
Wale had suggested to Sogavare that since the agreement had now been signed, it should be made public so that Solomon Islanders would see and know what’s in there.
In response, Sogavare said this would be done but only after further consultations with China.
The prime minister would not say how soon that would be when Wale pressed him on that.
Earlier yesterday, he confirmed in parliament the agreement had been signed after the Chinese Foreign ministry broke the news to the world on Tuesday during its regular press conference.
Foreign Affairs ministers of the two countries signed the treaty recently.
He said the Government has taken a sovereign decision to broaden its security cooperation with more countries guided by the country’s National Security Strategy (NSS).
Sogavare asked all friends and partners to respect the sovereign interests of Solomon Islands which the country had subscribed to under the Biketewa and Boe Declarations on regional security.
“I ask all our neighbours, friends and partners to respect the sovereign interests of Solomon Islands on the assurance that the decision will not adversely impact or undermine the peace and harmony of our region”.
“Let me once again reiterate that Solomon Islands Security Cooperation with China is guided by the country’s Foreign Policy of ‘Friends to all and Enemies to none’.
“Solomon Islands do not have any external adversaries nor is the framework directed at any countries or external alliances rather at our own internal security situation from within the state.
“It complements our (2017) Security Agreement with Australia,” Sogavare said.
He said Foreign Affairs minister Jeremiah Manele will visit some regional countries soon to assure our neighbours that the cooperation with China is about peace and wellbeing of Solomon Islands and the region.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday the security cooperation follows the principle of equality and mutual benefit, and is based on respecting the will and actual need of Solomon Islands.
He said the security cooperation aims at promoting social stability and long-term tranquility in Solomon Islands, which conforms to the common interests of Solomon Islands and the South Pacific region.
“The security cooperation is open, transparent and inclusive, and does not target any third party.
“It proceeds in parallel and complements Solomon Islands’ existing bilateral and multilateral security cooperation mechanisms.
“China stands ready to work with relevant countries to leverage respective strengths to form international synergy,” Wenbin said.
Opposition MP and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Peter Kenilorea Jnr. told Radio New Zealand the government needs to make the security document public.
He said the Beijing-Honiara pact is not only a sovereign issue when it comes to security and geopolitics in the region.
The East Are’Are MP added the deal Sogavare has struck with China is a regional concern and countries in the region will continue to have a say on it.
Kenilorea said the signed copy of the agreement must be made available to know the details of what it contains and the implications it will have for the Pacific.
“It is that important that it should be made public. We have a security treaty with Australia, and that can be accessed online.
“So why couldn’t this be and I will be calling for that signed copy to be made available so that all Solomon Islanders as well as a region can see what is in there,” he said.
A draft copy of the treaty was leaked two weeks ago. It’s not clear whether there are any major changes to the final draft.
Australia and the United States have been expressing concerns about the agreement over fears it may pave the way for China to build its naval base here.
But Sogavare argued the agreement does not cater for that, and that Solomon Islands will never allow for that to happen.
In Canberra yesterday, Australia’s Foreign Ministry says it is “deeply disappointed” that Solomon Islands has pressed ahead and signed a security pact.
It’s unclear last night whether a proposed visit this month by top United States officials to Honiara to dissuade Sogavare from signing the treaty will still go ahead now that the agreement had been signed.