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China wary of US officials’ high-level visit to Solomon Islands

Chinese media fears US visit to Solomon islands will water down the Beijing-Honiara agreement (Photo: IANS)

As high-level US officials begin their visit to the Solomon Islands, Chinese media said this visit to the South Pacific archipelago is an attempt to nullify the already signed security pact.

China and Solomon Islands on Tuesday signed a framework agreement on security cooperation that neighbours of the South Pacific archipelago fear could open the door to a Chinese naval base in the country. "After Australia failed to sway the Solomon Islands to thwart the security agreement with China, senior US officials plan to travel to the country this week in an attempt to nullify the already signed security pact, which will be a rare high-level visit with pressure by the superpower," the Chinese state media outlet Global Times said in a report.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced the security agreement, saying the deal would involve China cooperating with Honiara on maintaining social order, protecting people's safety, aid, combating natural disasters and helping safeguard national security, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Speaking at a press briefing, Wenbin defended the signing of security cooperation with the Solomon Islands, saying the agreement "does not target any third party."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that the two countries had formally signed a framework pact on security cooperation.

The cooperation represents normal exchanges between two sovereign and independent states, and constitutes an important part of their comprehensive cooperation, he said.

Officials from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand on Tuesday expressed concerns about a proposed security framework between the Solomon Islands and China and its "serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific."

This statement was issued after the high-level US officials convened a meeting in Honolulu with senior officials from Australia, Japan, and New Zealand on developments in the Pacific Islands on April 18.

"We will do this in ever-closer partnership with Pacific Island nations, including through a united Pacific Islands Forum; and together with like-minded countries, within and beyond the region, including in Europe," the White House statement read.

"Officials from the four countries represented also shared concerns about a proposed security framework between the Solomon Islands and the People's Republic of China (PRC) and its serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific," it added.

The meeting was part of regular and extensive US consultations with allies and partners on the Indo-Pacific and is part of the announced senior administration travel this week to Hawaii, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.