Beijing has issued a fierce rebuttal to concerns expressed by New Zealand and Australia over its draft security arrangement with the Solomon Islands.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called some of the reaction from some leaders condescending and “privileged”, and that the people of the Solomon Islands are in favour of the agreement, that could see China establish a military presence in the island through the visiting of ships and armed forces.
Deadly riots in Honiara last year were seen in part as a response to China’s growing influence in the country.
The Solomon Islands parliament sat for the first time since then on Monday under intense security from a coalition of forces from several countries, including New Zealand, to prevent any unrest.
“Why are some individuals concerned about China-Solomon Islands cooperation when the government and the people of Solomon Islands genuinely welcome it? Who has been sending military aircraft and vessels right to others’ doorsteps and flex muscles for years that severely threaten relevant countries’ sovereignty and security?” Wang said at a regular briefing to journalists from the Chinese capital.
He also took aim at the AUKUS agreement, arguing its partners (Australia, Britain and the United States) are stoking tension in the region.
“Who has been forming military circles that bring nuclear proliferation risks to the Pacific Ocean? And who has been deliberately hyping up tension and stoking bloc confrontation that cast a pall on regional peace and stability? The international community can make a fair judgement, and the people of Solomon Islands and other Pacific island countries can see this clearly.”
“Any attempt to disrupt and undermine mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Pacific island countries is doomed to fail,” he said.
Pacific leaders have been speaking about the agreement since it broke late last week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sayid there was “very little” reason for China to station military forces on the Solomon Islands, describing developments as “gravely concerning”.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he has spoken with prime ministers Frank Bainimarama and James Marape of Fiji and Papua New Guinea, while Ardern has had two discussions with him in recent days.
On Monday, Scott Morrison described developments as a reminder of constant “threats” in the region.
“This is an issue of concern for the region but it does not come as a surprise. We have been long aware of these pressures,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta is the second New Zealand minister to visit the Pacific region in as many weeks, following Defence Minister Peeni Henare’s visit last week.
Mahuta’s met with PM Bainimarama Tuesday.