China Reveals Whether It Plans to Build Solomon Islands Military Base Amid US and Aussie Hysteria

CC BY 2.0 / Flickr / Picasa / The Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.05.2022
The People’s Republic and the Solomons signed a security pact in April allowing China to establish a military foothold in the southern Pacific nation. Washington warned Honiara not to let China set up a military base on the islands, while Australian lawmakers jockeying for position in national elections traded blame for the geostrategic blunder.
Beijing has “no intention at all” of setting up any permanent military installation on the Solomon Islands, and the China-Solomons treaty penned last month is fully “above board,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has assured.
“It was not imposed on anyone, nor is it targeted at any third country. There is no intention at all to establish a military base,” Wang said, speaking to reporters in Honiara on Thursday after meeting with Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele.
Wang, who arrived in the country on a two day visit as part of a diplomatic tour of the region which will take him to eight South Pacific nations, stressed that “China’s cooperation with the Pacific island countries does not target any country and should not be interfered or disrupted by any other country.”
Commenting on recently concerns expressed by Australian officials and Western media about China’s supposed incursion into Canberra’s geostrategic “backyard” with the Solomons security treaty, Wang emphasized that the Pacific Island nations “are not the backyard of anyone.”
“All the Pacific island countries are entitled to make their own choice instead of being just mere followers of others,” he said.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi talks during a meeting with Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, March 25, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.05.2022
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Along with the Solomons, Wang will visit Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor to discuss a proposed regional trade and security agreement.
China and the Solomons formally established ties in 2019, when Honiara dropped its recognition of Taiwan.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare welcomed the Chinese visit to his island nation, and vowed that Honiara would “always stand true to our policy of friends to all and enemies to none.”
Wang’s trip to the Solomons coincided with newly minted Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s trip to Fiji. In a keynote address, Wong accused “past governments” of “neglecting” their responsibility to regional nations on climate change, and promised that “ignored” and “disrespected” nations of the region would be listened to by the new Labor government, which was sworn in on 23 May after a heated election campaign.
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Wong vowed that Canberra “will remain a critical development partner for the Pacific family” on climate, COVID and the “strategic contest” with China, and, in a dig at Beijing, promised that “Australia will be a partner that doesn’t come with strings attached nor imposing unsustainable financial burdens.”
Canberra and Washington have profusely condemned the China-Solomons security agreement, sealed last month, which reportedly allows Honiara to request the deployment of Chinese police or military personnel to the islands to ensure security, and permits Chinese Navy vessels to use the islands for refueling and port of call visits. US, Australian and British officials and media have accused Beijing of inking the deal to try to “encircle” Canberra with military bases, or challenge the region’s decades of political, economic and security dependence on the United States.
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On Wednesday, the US State Department warned that the proposed regional agreement on security, policing and data communication cooperation between China and the Pacific island nations would “fuel regional and international tensions” and spark “increased concerns over Beijing’s expansion of its internal security apparatus to the Pacific.” A State Department spokesperson accused Beijing of “offering shadowy, vague deals with little transparency,” and criticized regional nations for carrying out “little regional consultation.”
US and Australian concerns about Chinese “military bases” abroad ring hollow given the US’s vast network of over 750 bases in countries around the world, and Australia’s use of two bases in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates for its own operations. China, by contrast, operates a single naval support base in Djibouti, opening it in 2017 for the People’s Liberation Army’s anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.
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