The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands says Australia is being “coercive” by withholding funding over the nation’s ties to China.
The Pacific nation signed a security deal with China last year, and PM Manasseh Sogavare visited China last week to deepen ties.
Australia, which has its own security deal with Solomon Islands, has expressed concern about the China deal but denies it has withheld any funding.
The Solomon Islands:
Solomon Islands is a small nation 2,000km northeast of Australia.
It has longstanding diplomatic ties with Australia and signed a security treaty in 2017, which has seen Australian police and military personnel assist with internal security and natural disaster responses.
Until recently, it was one of few countries that did not formally recognise the Chinese Government. Sogavare changed this in 2019, sparking local protests.
Solomon Islands deal
Last April, Solomon Islands signed a security deal with China. The details were not made public. Sogavare said Chinese police would assist with local security but denied reports China wanted to establish a military base.
The Morrison Government said it was “deeply disappointed” but respected Solomon Islands’ independence.
China has tried to form security ties with several Pacific nations. Last May, it failed in a bid to set up a security deal with the whole region.
This week, Sogavare visited Beijing to sign a new deal for security and economic co-operation.
He claimed economic assistance from China was needed to replace millions of dollars of funding withheld by Australia.
In a press conference, he claimed Australia had been “unneighbourly” and “coercive” because of its new ties to China and accused Australia of “interference” in its affairs.
Australian politicians have visited Solomon Islands frequently in recent months, including a visit last month by Defence Minister Richard Marles.
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Australia has upheld all of its promised funding to Solomon Islands. Over $40 million in police support was promised in last year’s budget.
The spokesperson said Australia would “continue to discuss development and budget support needs” with the country.