The Solomon Islands on March 31 said it had inked a wide-ranging security pact with Beijing, an agreement Western allies say could pave the way for the first Chinese military foothold in the South Pacific.
“Officials of Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China have initialled elements of a bilateral Security Cooperation Framework between the two countries today,” said a statement from the prime minister’s office in Honiara.
It is now awaiting signature by foreign ministers of the two countries.
A draft version of the agreement, leaked last week, detailed measures to allow Chinese security and naval deployments to the crisis-hit Pacific island nation.
It included a proposal that “China may, according to its own needs and with the consent of the Solomon Islands, make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands”.
It would also allow armed Chinese police to deploy at the Solomon Islands’ request, to maintain “social order”.
The “forces of China” would also be allowed to protect “the safety of Chinese personnel” and “major projects in the Solomon Islands”.
Australia’s Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant General Greg Bilton on March 31 said the China-Solomon Islands pact would “change the calculus” of his country’s operations in the Pacific.
The Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on March 29 said there was “no intention whatsoever … to ask China to build a military base in the Solomon Islands”, adding that it was “very insulting … to be branded as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs” by other nations.