Agreement with the Solomon Islands enhances Beijing’s influence in the outskirts of Australia. Which disturbs the West.
All about this: The Solomon Islands in the South Pacific have signed a controversial security cooperation agreement with China, despite the opposition of its neighbors Australia, New Zealand and the United States. According to Chinese information, the long-term contract includes cooperation in maintaining social order and protecting the security of residents and their property. There is also humanitarian support and assistance in case of natural disasters.
These are possible consequences: The exact wording of the contract now signed is unknown. However, a draft was posted a few weeks ago. This stipulates that Beijing can send the army, police and other security forces to the Solomon Islands to ensure social stability. “However, we don’t know if there have been any changes to the agreements that are now in place,” says Martin Aldrovandi, SRF’s China correspondent.
Transfer from Taiwan to Beijing
In November 2021, there were serious riots in the Solomon Islands, four people were killed. Chinese stores in particular were razed and looted. One reason for the unrest was that the archipelago’s government renounced diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and instead established relations with Beijing – having received promises of millions in aid. Australia has also sent soldiers and police officers to the islands to improve the security situation due to the riots. However, the Solomon Islands government later accepted an offer from Beijing to train and equip the security forces with Chinese police materials.
These are Beijing’s intentions: “The agreement is part of China’s efforts to increase its influence in the region,” says correspondent Aldrovandi. In 2019, the Solomon Islands cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which had been in place since 1983, and immediately established ties with Beijing. Since then, China has been investing “heavily” in the Solomon Islands. The archipelago is also part of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative. For example, Beijing is building a sports stadium in the Solomon Islands for use in next year’s Pacific Games.
This is how the West responded: The United States, Australia and New Zealand have previously protested against the agreement. The US government will send a high-level delegation to the Solomon Islands this week, led by Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell. Because, according to the US State Department, the broad nature of the agreement between Beijing and the Solomon Islands “leaves the door open to the stationing of military forces from the People’s Republic of China.” Washington also expressed concern that cooperation could destabilize the Solomon Islands.
Beijing is rushing into the US sphere of influence
Australia and the United States traditionally consider the South Pacific region – such as the Solomon Islands or Kiribati – their sphere of influence, as their back garden, so to speak. But China is increasingly trying to assert its influence in the region. China is also clearly interested in restricting Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of the People’s Republic of China. This strategy has apparently proven successful: Not only did the Solomon Islands cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish ties with Beijing in recent years, but also Kiribati. Its national territory east of the Solomon Islands extends over several hundred kilometers and a large number of islands in Micronesia and Polynesia.
Solomon Islands says: The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands said that China has no intention of establishing a military base on the islands. Rather, it is about cooperation in the internal security of the archipelago. “However, it is clear: China wants to increase its influence in the Solomon Islands,” says Martin Aldrovandi. For example, Beijing operates a relatively large embassy building in the Solomon Islands, while the United States, for example, still plans to open an embassy there.
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