Canberra is concerned about a ‘secret’ security deal between the Solomon Islands and China, PM says

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Solomon Islands leader Manasseh Sogavare to remain “calm” after he said his country was being “threatened with invasion” over a security pact it signed with China.

We need to be calm and composed when we deal with these issues,” Morrison said on Thursday, insisting the relationship between Australia and the Solomon Islands remained friendly even while acknowledging he was concerned over “security” in the region following Sogavare’s decision to sign the “secret arrangement” with China. 

Sogavare has criticized both the US and Australia’s response to the security pact his island recently signed with Beijing, insisting there is “nothing to be concerned about” and that the island nation is “insulted” by the West’s response to the move. 

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“We are being treated as kindergarten students walking around with Colt 45s in our hands” who “need to be supervised,” Sogavare complained, insisting his country was being “threatened with invasion” over the controversial pact and that Australia’s response demonstrated a “lack of trust.”

Sogavare said on Tuesday that there had been a “warning of military intervention” in the Solomon Islands if other countries’ security goals were undermined. “We are threatened with invasion,” he warned. “Now, that is serious.” 

Morrison insisted that Australia remained Honiara’s “primary security partner,” and that his country trusted the island nation as an equal.

No final version of the pact between the island nation and China has yet been published, though a draft leaked in March mentioned Chinese warships were to be given safe harbor in the islands.

Morrison had previously warned that a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands would be considered a “red line” for Canberra, though he did not explain what he would do to prevent it, or how.

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The Australian PM dismissed suggestions during the press conference on Thursday that he had damaged the relationship between Canberra and Honiara, arguing he hadn’t spoken to his Solomon Islands counterpart on the advice of his country’s security agencies. He previously accused China of “interfering” in the Indo-Pacific region, expressing concern that the cooperation pact could eventually lead to the construction of a Chinese military base in the island nation, 2,000 kilometers away from Australia. 

Australia goes to the polls on May 21, with Morrison facing fierce criticism of his foreign policy following the pact between Honiara and Beijing.

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