Sat, 10 Jun 2023

CANBERRA, Australia: Amidst concern over the regional impact of a security deal between China and the Solomon Islands, Australian foreign minister Penny Wong will travel to the Pacific islands to meet with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

In a news release, Wong said that she would travel to the Solomon Islands and New Zealand on her third visit to the Pacific since becoming foreign minister last month.

The statement added that Wong would meet with Sogavare, and Australia aims to deepen its cooperation with the Solomon Islands on shared challenges, including climate change.

"I look forward to discussing the ways we can continue to make progress on pandemic recovery, economic development and labour mobility priorities, and addressing our shared security interests," she said.

Several Pacific island nations have said the security pact, along with a Chinese proposal for a comprehensive security and trade agreement with 10 nations in the region, will be discussed at next month's Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting to be held in Suva, Fiji.

Last month, China foreign minister Wang Yi and Sogavare met in Honiara and agreed to deepen the fisheries, mining, infrastructure and trade cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands.

The security pact with the Solomon Islands would improve policing and protect Chinese citizens and institutions there, Wang said during the visit, adding, "China supports Pacific Island countries in strengthening security cooperation and working together to address regional security challenges."

Even though Sogavare has denied the pact would allow a military base for the Chinese, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the U.S. have expressed concerns that Beijing could establish a military presence in the region.

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