China and the Solomon Islands have signed a security cooperation agreement that would see them work together on maintaining social order, protecting people's safety, aid, combating natural disasters, and helping safeguard national security.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin announced the agreement in Beijing on Tuesday, saying it would involve China cooperating with Honiara in different areas.
"The purpose of China-Solomon security cooperation is to promote social stability and long-term peace and security in the Solomon Islands, which is in line with the common interests of the Solomon Islands and the South Pacific region," he told the briefing.
"China-Solomon Islands security cooperation is public, transparent, open, and inclusive, not directed at any third party, and is parallel to and complementary to the existing bilateral and multilateral security cooperation mechanisms in Solomon Islands."
Solomon Islands foreign affairs minister Jeremiah Manele confirmed the signing of the pact to journalists, saying Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare would make a formal announcement about the deal in the coming days.
It came just days after Australia's minister for the pacific Zed Seselja headed to Honiara in a bid to dissuade the government there from going ahead with the security cooperation deal.
The deal has raised concerns in the West with Australia, New Zealand, and the US fearing that it could pave the way for a Chinese naval base in the South Pacific.
On Tuesday, the island's parliament was told by Douglas Ete, chairman of the public accounts committee and lawmaker for East Honiara, that Chinese foreign ministry officials will be visiting the country next month to sign cooperation agreements.
"The PRC foreign affairs is heading to Honiara in the middle of May to sign multilateral agreements and cooperation with the Solomon Islands government," Ete said.
In parliament, Prime Minister Sogavare rejected the idea that Honiara would allow Beijing to build a military base on its land.
Beijing this week said security ties between China and the Solomon Islands were not aimed at any third party. China also insisted that the agreement did not contradict the cooperation the Solomon Islands has with other nations.
The United States has voiced its alarm over the deal, sending high-level US delegations to the country in recent months.
Kurt Campbell, the top official on Asia at the National Security Council, will take part in the delegation traveling to the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea by the end of the week.
Campbell’s trip is aimed at discussing concerns over China, as well as reestablishing the American embassy in Honaira.
Australia has said it would keep up its ties with Solomon Island despite the pact, Payne said on Sunday.
Situated in Oceania, the Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and more than 900 smaller ones. The island chain, home to 800,000 people, was engulfed in unrest and riots in November 2021,
China said late last year that it would send police advisers and riot gear to the Solomon Islands, which is among the latest countries to have cut ties with Chinese Taipei in favor of Beijing.
China has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, and under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but has long courted Taipei in an attempt to unnerve Beijing.