China and Solomon Islands sign security deal

(April 19, 2022) Wang Wenbin speaking at the press conference. PHOTO: Chinese Embassy in the Solomon Islands/Facebook

China has signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands just days ahead of a visit by senior U.S government officials to the South Pacific country, exacerbating western fears over Beijing’s growing influence in the region.

Wang Yi, Chinese foreign minister, and his Solomon Islands counterpart Jeremiah Manele signed the deal “in recent days”, China’s foreign ministry said.

The agreement “proceeds in parallel with and complements the existing bilateral and multilateral security cooperation mechanisms of Solomon Islands”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing on Tuesday, without giving more details about the deal.

It is unclear whether any changes were made to the text of the agreement before it was signed as neither China nor the Solomon Islands have published the final deal.

China argues U.S motive

Wang also questioned the U.S “motive” for sending top officials to the island countries later this week.

He cited an unidentified report saying that the last high-level visit of the U.S to a Pacific island country was 37 years ago by then Secretary of State.

“After so many years, senior U.S officials are making such a high-profile visit to the Pacific island countries. We cannot help but ask whether they really care about the island countries or have other motives… The U.S and other individual countries have been smearing China for no reason while creating the so-called trilateral security partnership, introducing nuclear proliferation risks and Cold War mentality into the South Pacific region, which seriously threatens regional security and stability,” said Wang.

“The label of undermining regional security suits them better,” he added.

“Deliberate attempts to inflate tensions and mobilise rival camps are also doomed to fail,” Wang said, when asked about the U.S. officials’ scheduled visit.

China officials to visit in May

Meanwhile, Honiara’s parliament was told by Douglas Ete, chairman of the public accounts committee and lawmaker for East Honiara, that Chinese foreign ministry officials would arrive next month.

“The PRC foreign affairs is heading to Honiara in the middle of May to sign multilateral agreements and cooperations with the Solomon Islands government,” he said, referring to China.

Ete said the visit meant the two nations would increase cooperation on trade, education and fisheries, but added that he rejected the idea of the Solomons signing a security pact with China to set up a military base.