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Solomon PM says Chinese security deal ready to sign

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (L) has rebuffed fears that a leaked security pact with China would "destabilise" the region. THOMAS PETER POOL/AFP/File

Solomon PM says Chinese security deal ready to sign

The Solomon Islands’ prime minister on March 29 said a contentious security agreement with Beijing was “ready for signing”, denying reports that his country had been pressured to allow a Chinese naval base to be built in the Pacific island nation.

In an impassioned speech to parliament, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare offered little detail on the final deal beyond saying that there was “no intention whatsoever … to ask China to build a military base in the Solomon Islands”.

He dismissed reports in the Australian media that his country was being pressured by China to build the base.

“Where does that nonsense come from? The security treaty … is pursued at the request of the Solomon Islands’ government,” he said.

“We are not pressured in any way by our new friends.”

A draft version of the agreement, leaked last week, sent shockwaves through Canberra because it included proposals that would allow Chinese security and naval deployments to the Pacific nation.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said reports of the deal were “a reminder of the constant pressure and threats that present in our region to our own national security”. His New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern called the draft deal “gravely concerning”.

But Beijing on March 29 dismissed all concerns, calling the pact “beyond reproach”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China hoped the “relevant countries can earnestly respect the Solomon Islands’ sovereignty … instead of condescendingly believing that they have the right to tell the Solomon Islands what it should or should not do”.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Solomon Islands (AFP/Laurence CHU)

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