Australian Defense Minister in Solomon Islands for security talks

Sydney, June 28 (BNA): The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, called for a review of the security treaty with Australia in a meeting with the Minister of Defense of Canberra, Wednesday, amid a growing strategic competition in the region between China and the United States. and its allies.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marliss is on a two-day visit to the Solomon Islands for security talks that come as China takes a bigger role in the Pacific nation’s police force.

He told parliament on Monday that Sogavare is expected to travel to China next week.

Marlies wrote on Twitter that he had a “productive meeting” with Sogavare, in which they discussed “deepening the partnership between our two countries, including through regional security, infrastructure, labor mobility and health.”

Marlies also met with members of the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force (SIAF), which includes Australian, Fiji and New Zealand police deployed in 2021 at Sogavare’s request to quell anti-government riots.

Australia is a major aid donor and has a decades-old security relationship with the Solomon Islands. A 2017 security treaty between Australia and the Solomon Islands allows Australian police and defense personnel to quickly deploy to the Solomon Islands if the need arises and both countries agree.

China has recently stepped up its infrastructure funding and Sogavare last year signed a security pact with China, sparking concern in Canberra and Washington about Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the strategically located region.

Sogavare’s office said he “conveyed the country’s appreciation for Australia’s continued security support” in its meeting with Marlies.

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“The prime minister expressed the need to review the current security treaty between the two countries to take into account the changing security challenges facing the two countries,” a statement said.

Chinese police have taken an increasing role in training and equipping the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force in recent months.

The Solomon Islands will host the Pacific Games in Honiara in November. China funded the regional sporting event and built seven stadiums and other venues, and the Chinese police pledged “continued support” to Suleiman Police “throughout and after” the event.

“Assessments are still ongoing to determine security needs during the Games, and if there are areas that need to be addressed, Australia will be notified through the appropriate channels,” the statement added.

Sogavare’s office told Reuters that details of his visit to China were being finalized.


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