Tensions between the Solomon Islands and Australia continued to escalate after a critical speech by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavari on Friday. The leader of the Pacific island group says he is “extremely disappointed” in Australia and says he has every right to enter into a controversial security agreement with China.
Last week, Beijing announced that it had signed a treaty with the group of islands northeast of Australia. What exactly is in the deal with China is unclear, but a draft version of it surfaced on social media last month and sparked unrest in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. These countries are important allies of the Solomon Islands and fear that China will try to gain military influence in the region.
Australia’s home minister said it was “highly likely” on Wednesday that China would open a military base in the archipelago. This may be the first time that Chinese naval ships can dock in this part of the Pacific Ocean. Australia’s intelligence chief said he feared the consequences for a “weak and unstable country”.
One hundred Australian police and military personnel marched to the Solomon Islands late last year to end the violent demonstrations. According to Sogavary, this assistance was not sufficient and therefore the security treaty that the archipelago currently has with Australia is insufficient in regards to the Prime Minister.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Prime Minister Sugavari also said during his speech that his country might conclude a treaty because Australia also decided to deal with the US and UK on its own, referring to the AUKUS security agreement introduced in September last year. “We did not act hysterically or theatrically, but accepted the Australian decision,” Sogavari said.