The Solomon Islands has refuted claims by Australia and other nations that its policing agreement with Beijing poses a threat to regional peace in the Pacific. The government of the Solomon Islands has stated that China’s involvement will enhance the capabilities of its 1,500 police officers in the areas of cybersecurity and community policing.
Concerns over the agreement have prompted the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the opposition party in the Solomon Islands to call on Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to disclose the details of the deal signed in Beijing on Monday, amid fears that it may escalate regional tensions.
In a statement issued on Friday, Prime Minister Sogavare’s office emphasized that the Pacific island nation is expanding its security partnerships and that the presence of Chinese police officers will complement the existing support provided by Australia and New Zealand. The statement added, “No one has a monopoly on knowledge.”
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, conveyed Australia’s security concerns in the Pacific during a meeting with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in Jakarta on Thursday evening. In response, the statement from Sogavare’s office highlighted that improving traffic control and management systems, providing police equipment, and completing the Forensic Autopsy Lab in Honiara do not pose a threat to peace and security in the Pacific region.
The statement also noted that the 2021 riots in the capital city of Honiara exposed weaknesses in the country’s policing system. Australian and New Zealand police were deployed to the Solomon Islands at the request of Prime Minister Sogavare to address the unrest. In the past, these two countries led an international security force for ten years to maintain peace in the aftermath of internal conflicts.
Prior to his visit to China, Prime Minister Sogavare announced that Australia’s security treaty with the Solomon Islands would undergo a review. Opposition leader Matthew Wale emphasized that policing methods differ between democracies and communist countries, emphasizing the importance of upholding human rights and due process in democracies.
Meg Keen, the director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands program, stated that the issue at hand is not China’s provision of security equipment but rather the compatibility between Chinese and Pacific policing methods. Keen stressed the critical importance of how such equipment, particularly firearms and water cannons, is used.
During his recent visit to Beijing, Prime Minister Sogavare, who had previously agreed on a security pact with China, expressed his country’s support for China’s Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative policies. These policies involve Chinese investments in infrastructure and security. With a population of 700,000 people spread across a strategically important archipelago in the Pacific, the Solomon Islands played a pivotal role in the US military’s westward movement to liberate the Philippines during World War II.
Tensions over Taiwan have raised concerns in Washington and Canberra regarding China’s naval ambitions in the region. Opposition leader Matthew Wale added, “Our fear is that in the near future, China’s interests will clash with US influence and strategic interests in the region, and we are right in the middle of it all.”