Australian PM says Chinese naval base in Solomon Islands would be ‘red line’

Xi Jinping
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese president Xi Jinping delivers a speech via video link to the opening ceremony of the Bo’ao Forum For Asia in Bo’ao in southern China’s Hainan Province, Thursday, April 21, 2022. Xi said his government supports talks to resolve international disputes, but opposes the use of sanctions. (Huang Jingwen/Xinhua via AP)

Australia’s prime minister warned over the weekend that a Chinese naval base in the Solomon Islands would be a “red line” for his country.

Days after the government in the Solomon Islands announced a new security agreement with China, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in his country the news was a “shared concern” in the southwest Pacific region, including with the islands of Fiji and Papua New Guinea, according to ABC Australia.

“I share the same red line that the United States has when it comes to these issues,” Morrison said on Saturday. “We won’t be having Chinese military naval bases in our region on our doorstep.”

On Wednesday, Solomon Island Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced he had signed an agreement with China that will allow them to send military personnel to his island, stoking fears of a Chinese naval base in the southwest Pacific, The Associated Press reported.

Sogavare told world leaders to respect his island’s sovereignty and promised it would not undermine peace and security in the region. Sogavare said the agreement would not allow China to create a military base or establish foothold in the region, the AP noted.

U.S. officials traveled to the Solomon Islands on Friday to meet with Sogavare following news of the security agreement. In the meeting, the U.S. delegation said they respect sovereign rights but raised “regional security implications” about the pact.

“If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the United States would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly,” U.S. officials wrote in a White House readout of the meeting.

The White House said leaders agreed to “launch a high-level strategic dialogue,” on the matter.

China has for years worked to establish a more dominant presence in the Pacific region, including by building up artificial island bases, which have raised concerns about a larger Chinese military presence.

Tags Australia China Naval bases Scott Morrison Solomon Islands
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