Beijing-Solomons deal to put Australia in range of Chinese weaponry
A leaked draft security agreement between Beijing and the Solomon Islands’ will allow Chinese forces to be deployed to the Pacific nation to “protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands,” putting People’s Liberation Army forces within 1,700 kilometres of the northern city of Cairns in Australia.
The agreement, if carried through, would establish a new forward position for Beijing to assert control over the Indo-Pacific. The Solomons was the site of the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II and fought over tooth and nail because of its influence over the sea lanes in the region.
The “Framework Agreement Between the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Government of Solomon Islands on Security Cooperation” began circulating online on March 24.
Article 1 of the Agreement says the Solomon Islands can request that China “send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces to the Solomon Islands to assist in maintaining social order.”
Article 2 outlined that Beijing could, “according to its own needs and with the consent of Solomon Islands, make ship visits to carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in the Solomon Islands, and the relevant forces of China can be used to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands.”
The Agreement will need to be implemented by the respective foreign ministries of both governments—for any request for assistance, the Solomon Islands must provide the facilities and border entry for “personnel and weaponry, intelligence and information support.”
The deal also requires details of any assistance to be kept confidential unless both parties agree to release it publicly to the media. The Agreement is set for a five-year period and will be automatically renewed for another five years.
The move deepens an existing divide within the Solomons’ political circles, with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s deep ties with Beijing at odds with those of provincial leader Daniel Suidani, the premier of Malaita, who has repeatedly refused to follow the national government’s move in rejecting Taiwan—aggravating Sogavare.
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