China on Tuesday said it has signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, reiterating that the pact “does not target any third country.”
The pact was “recently” signed by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Solomon Islands counterpart Jeremiah Manele, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters at a news briefing in Beijing, without saying when or where the signing took place.
“The security cooperation between China and Solomon Islands is part of normal exchanges and cooperation between two sovereign and independent countries,” Wang said, according to Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.
The agreement is “transparent, open and inclusive,” he said, and “does not target any third country, does not contradict the cooperation between Solomon Islands and other countries, and can complement existing cooperation mechanisms in the region.”
Wang said the agreement is “based on equality and shared benefits and is conducted on the premise of respecting Solomon Islands’ will and actual needs.”
The announcement is likely to ratchet up concerns of the US and its allies Australia and New Zealand, who believe the move is part of Beijing’s push to increase its influence in the region.
Canberra even sent senior officials to press Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to review a decision it fears will “undermine the stability and security of the region” and lead to the “establishment of a permanent (Chinese) presence such as a military base.”
Sogavare, though, brushed aside the concerns as “insulting,” while stressing that his government will keep honoring its security arrangements with Australia and other regional partners.
“We know our boundaries and we will not do anything to cause unnecessary discomfort to our partners in the region,” he said in parliament last month.
His foreign and national security ministers said in a separate March statement that the China deal is a response to “soft and hard domestic threats,” reaffirming that the island nation will continue to follow its foreign policy of being “a friend to all and enemy to none.”
While details of the pact have not been made public, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the countries “will conduct cooperation in fields such as maintaining social order, protecting people’s lives and properties, providing humanitarian assistance, and tackling natural disasters,” according to the CGTN report.
“The cooperation is intended to promote social stability and lasting security of Solomon Islands and is in line with the common interests of the country and the South Pacific,” Wang added.