Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will continue to press the Solomon Islands amid its security pact with China if the Coalition is re-elected for another term.
Morrison was asked what his government would do to ensure China would not establish a military base in the Solomon Islands while on the campaign trail on Tuesday.
“Well, you heard from the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, that is not something that they would allow to occur. He made that very clear,” he told reporters in Rydalmere, in the electorate of Parramatta.
“We’re continuing to press on the issue of rotation, possible rotation of vessels or others that might seek to go to Solomon Islands.
“It’s a very serious issue we’ll continue to press.”
The Prime Minister added it was important to respect the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands despite international concerns over the potential military pact.
“They’re not a state of Australia. They’re not under Australia’s control or direction,” he said.
“They are a sovereign country. And my approach to the Pacific, as the Foreign Minister will attest, has always been to respect the sovereignty of our neighbours.”
A draft security cooperation deal between Beijing and Honiara – which enables greater Chinese involvement in the Pacific Islands region – was leaked in March.
The defence pact could lead to a Chinese military base being established in the Solomon Islands in return for increased aid from Beijing.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, of the Solomon Islands, described the international backlash following its security negotiations with China as “very insulting”.
“We find it very insulting to be branded as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs,” Sogavare said in address to parliament in March.
“We are not pressured in any way by our new friends and there is no intention whatsoever to ask China to build a military base in the Solomon Islands.”
He recently claimed the proposed deal does not include a military base and the Solomon Islands would never play host to such a base.
“It will not be in the interest of Solomon Islands to host any naval or military base of any country, because that will immediately make Solomon Islands a military target for other countries,” he said.
The Solomon Islands Prime Minister also said Australia remains the nations’ “partner of choice”.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the security cooperation is to “protect people’s life and property safety and has no military undertones”.
“Relevant remarks and speculations in the media are groundless and ill-intentioned,” he said.
SOURCE: SKY NEWS/PACNEWS