The Solomon Islands will not allow a Chinese military base and will know the ‘spread’

The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sokavare, will address the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2017 at the UN Headquarters in New York. REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz

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SYDNEY, April 1 (Reuters) – The Solomon Islands have said they will not allow a Chinese military base in the Pacific Islands despite plans to sign a security agreement with Beijing.

A day after officials from both countries launched a draft security-related agreement, the office of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Chowdhury said on Friday that the agreement did not invite China to establish a military base.

“The government is aware of the security vulnerability of setting up a military base and would not be negligent in allowing such an attempt under its supervision,” a statement said.

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Chokawere did not release details of the defense deal with China, prompting concern over a leak that allowed Chinese naval vessels to fill up on the islands. Ministers have not yet signed.

On Thursday, the head of the Federated States of Micronesia stressed that the Solomon Islands should not sign the defense agreement, saying he had “serious security concerns” and feared the Pacific might be embroiled in a war between China and the United States. read more

New Zealand has also warned against the deal, saying it could undermine long-term regional security cooperation. Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Friday he appreciated the tragedy, but urged caution.

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China has established a 20-point military presence in the South China Sea, which has told the United States it will not militarize the region, and Canberra feared Beijing would follow a similar path in the Pacific Islands, Dutton told Sky News.

“They want a military port in PNG [Papua New Guinea]. They have got one in Sri Lanka and they are openly looking for other places where they can put them, ”he said.

China offered to redesign a naval base in Papua New Guinea in 2018, but Australia, Australia’s closest northern neighbor, decided to build the base.

The Hambantota port in Sri Lanka is being operated by a Chinese state-owned company under a 99-year lease, although Sri Lanka has previously stated that the port cannot be used for Chinese military purposes.

A Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands is very close to Australia, prompting Australia to significantly increase its military presence in the region, Dutton said.

Australian Foreign Minister Maurice Payne has said a security deal between the Solomon Islands and China could undermine the region’s stability.

“We do not believe countries outside the Pacific family should play a security role,” he told local radio on Friday.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that “China-Solomon Islands defense cooperation is not aimed at any third party and does not conflict with other countries”, and the agreement covers social order, protection of life and property and the disaster response.

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Reported by Kirsty Needham. Editing by Jerry Doyle

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