The US government has warned Solomon Islands It will “respond accordingly” if the security agreement with China leads to a Chinese military presence in the Pacific island nation.
The White House said a visiting US delegation including Indo-Pacific Security Adviser Kurt Campbell relayed the message to Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavari, directly, as the fallout from the agreement continued to dominate the Australian federal election campaign.
Details of the agreement have not been announced. But according to the draft agreement, it would allow Chinese armed police to deploy at the request of the Solomon Islands to maintain “social order”. will also allow China In order to “make visits to ships and carry out logistic replenishment in the Solomon Islands and stop-and-go in the Solomon Islands”, Chinese forces can also be used “to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands.”
The Biden administration said in a statement that Sogavary assured the United States that there would be no long-term Chinese presence on the islands. However, the United States is “following developments closely, in consultation with regional partners.”
“Representatives of the Solomon Islands noted that the agreement has only domestic applications, but the US delegation noted that there are potential regional security implications for the agreement, including for the United States and its allies and partners,” the White House said in a statement.
The US delegation identified clear areas of concern regarding the purpose, scope and transparency of the agreement.
“If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power projection capabilities, or military facility, the delegation indicated that the United States would have significant concerns and would respond accordingly.”
The White House is also committed to accelerating Reopening of its embassy in Honiara.
On Saturday morning, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg refused to be drawn in when the government learned of the agreement.
Nine newspapers reported earlier this week that Australian intelligence agencies first became aware in March and played a role in leaking the draft agreement online.
But the Morrison government’s failure to block the deal was described by the opposition Labor Party as the biggest foreign policy failure in the Pacific since World War II.
Frydenberg did not say when Australia first learned of the agreement between the Solomon Islands and China, saying instead “we knew this was always a risk,” adding “we knew there were discussions going on.”
He also told Weekend Sunrise that the government could do little to help the Solomon Islands, describing its current assistance as “complete court press.”
The coalition government has continued to try to use the issue to portray Labor as being soft on China, with Frydenberg describing the speech of Labor Deputy Leader Richard Marles in 2019 as the “biggest story” of the day.
Marlisse – who was campaigning alongside Jim Chalmers in Brisbane because Labor leader Anthony Albanese contracted the Covid virus – confirmed reports that he showed Chinese government officials a copy of a speech he gave at a Beijing university in 2019.
“I gave a speech in China criticizing China and wanted to make sure that the Chinese government was not at all surprised by what I was going to say,” Marlis said.
“The assurance given by the government is yet another desperate attempt to walk away from their failures in the Pacific.”
Senior Labor MP Tanya Plibersek said on Saturday morning that the Solomon Islands security agreement came after “years of neglect” by the Australian government.
When asked what Labor would have done differently from the coalition, she said, “We weren’t going to sabotage the relationship with our Pacific neighbors in the first place.
“It is unreasonable, having warned us of it, [prime minister] Scott Morrison didn’t say to his Secretary of State, Marise Payne, I want you on the first plane to the Solomon Islands to talk about this.”
Reactions to the deal in the Solomon Islands were mixed.
Peter Keniloria, chair of the Solomon Islands Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee and an opposition MP, described the agreement as only benefiting China.
During a forum he hosted this week, Keniloria also questioned Sugavari’s claim that his government had the right to reach an agreement because it was a sovereign decision.
“I don’t think it’s a path we should take or a path that would benefit the Solomon Islands,” he said. “I think the biggest winner here will be the People’s Republic of China, in terms of footholds in the Pacific.”
He continued, “When it comes to security, especially in this escalating geopolitical environment, it is more than just a national issue… The region is affected, and there are repercussions.”
Another participant in forumDr Transform Akurao, a prominent academic in Solomon Islands, said it was a matter of concern that no one outside the government had seen a copy of the signed agreement or been provided with any details of its content, but said he saw nothing wrong with the agreement, which strengthened the Royal Solomon Islands police force ( RSIPF).
But the former Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and current MP Danny Phillip Same forum said That the agreement would help ensure the protection of Chinese assets in the country, after Australian security forces deployed there failed to do so. The Australian authorities have rejected his allegations.
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