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Solomon Islands PM slams West's 'intimidation' over ties with China

File photo of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has hit out at the Western media campaign against his country over its resumption of diplomatic ties with China.

"We have been subjected to a barrage of unwarranted attacks and misplaced criticism, misinformation and intimidation that threatens our democracy and sovereignty,” Sogavare said before the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Solomon Islands has been vilified in the media since our relationship with China was formalized."

Sogavare made it clear that his country’s position regarding China "is consistent" with UN resolutions, as well as the principle of 'One China', which he said Solomon Islands respects.

"I reiterate the call for respect for our sovereignty and democracy."

He was referring to a security cooperation agreement signed between China and the Solomon Islands back in April that alarmed American and Australian officials who scrambled to dispatch emissaries to the South Pacific island nation in an attempt to pressure its authorities to abandon the pact.

At the time, the White House declared in a statement that the US, along with its close regional allies Japan, New Zealand and Australia, was concerned by the security pact, claiming that it would pose "serious risks" to a free Indo-Pacific.

Diplomatic pressures by Washington and Canberra on Honiara to prevent it from signing the China agreement proved unsuccessful, with Sogavare insisting that the deal with Beijing "complements" his country's existing treaty with Australia.

He also argued that if the Solomon Islands had continued under the status quo, it would not have been able to cover "critical security gaps."

On Friday, the Solomon Islands prime minister emphasized that his nation does not intend to align itself "with any external power" whose aim is to "threaten" regional and international peace.

His reference was apparently to the US and Australia, which have been the most vocal in attacking and threatening the small island nation for its expansion of ties with Beijing since April.

"Solomon Islands will not be forced to choose sides," he said. 

Sogavare signed the agreement with Beijing on April 19 for collaboration on issues such as the maintenance of public order, the protection and security of people and priorities, humanitarian assistance and response to natural disasters.

During his UN address, Sogavare referred to the protests in Solomon Islands in November 2021, assuring that the progress to overcome the crisis "was severely hampered" by civilian unrest, which "exposed the security and economy of the country."

"We welcome any assistance in addressing our post-conflict situation," he added, noting that, considering the current calm in his country, Solomon Islands will host the 2023 Pacific Games.

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, after hundreds of people rallied in the capital, Honiara, to censure the central government for the lack of resources to regional development and also breaking ties with Taiwan in favor of rapprochement with China.

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 Taiwan in favor of Beijing.

China has sovereignty over Taiwan, 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.

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