New Zealand’s Ardern says Solomon Islands-China deal is ‘seriously concerning’
New Zealand is gravely concerned about the possible militarization of the Pacific following a decision by the Solomon Islands government to form a security partnership with China, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.
Friday’s confirmation by the Solomon Islands government that it was “diversifying” its security relationship beyond Australia sparked concern in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. “We see such acts as potential militarization of the region and also see very little reason in terms of Pacific security for such a need and presence,” Ardern told Radio NZ when asked if it would be acceptable for China to station its military vessels in the Pacific country.
“We view this as very concerning.” Solomon Islands Opposition Leader Matthew Wale said in an ABC television interview that he was disappointed Australia had not acted to prevent a deal with China, after warning the top Australian commissioner or ambassador last year.
High Commissioner Lachlan Strahan responded on Monday, writing on Twitter: ‘Australia has consistently and respectfully raised its concerns (to the Solomons) regarding the proposed Solomon Islands-China security cooperation agreement. . The “Pacific family” was best placed to provide security assistance to the Solomon Islands, he added, with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne quickly “liking” the tweet.
Washington has also expressed concern about China forming a military relationship, with US officials citing this in February as a reason to reopen a US embassy in Honiara, the capital of the Solomons. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters he would speak to his counterparts in Papua New Guinea and Fiji about the matter on Monday.
“It’s a matter of concern for the region, but it’s no surprise,” he said. The Pacific island nation of less than a million people, 2,000 km (1,240 miles) northeast of Australia, shifted diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, signaling the growing influence of the China in the Pacific.
Its main island is Guadalcanal, the scene of bitter fighting between American and Japanese forces in 1942-43.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)