Solomon Islands Foreign Minister defends China-SI security pact

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Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele has rejected claims that the security treaty with China provides for the establishment of a military or naval base.

This came after some Solomon Islands traditional partners, members of United Nation, talked about a ‘red line’ and ‘responding appropriately’ should China set up a military base in Solomon Islands.

There are even talk of invasion of Solomon Islands by the international media.

Speaking on the motion to thank the Governor General on his speech in Parliament, Manele said; “We are not stupid to ask for a military base as we ourselves could be a target for a military strike in the future in the event of an armed conflict between the major powers.”

He said the Solomon Islands Security Agreement with China reaffirmed respect for Solomon Islands sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

“The security agreement reinforces the foundation of peace, security and development.

“Security agreements are meant to grow peace through development,” he said.

Manele said it builds bridges of confidence, and removes sources of danger so that our people can keep investing to improve their quality of life.

He said it gives confidence to business houses and allows the nation of Solomon Islands to prosper.

In addition, Manele said Solomon Islands security cooperation with China does not undermine security arrangements with Australia, or security cooperation with any other country.

Instead, it complements existing arrangements, said Manele.

“The SI-PRC security agreement is a form of preventive diplomacy, in line with the 1997 Aitutaki Declaration.

“In other words, preventing the use of violence by some to uproot democratic processes and values.

“It prevents disputes from turning into conflict. It is peace keeping driven by the needs of the state,” he said.

Manele said the security cooperation agreement with China will not undermine regional security and stability.

“Having a stable Solomon Islands is also about securing stable and prosperous Pacific region,” he said.

Under the Aitutaki Declaration on Regional Cooperation, Leaders of the Pacific recognised that an adverse law enforcement environment could threaten the security, and economic integrity of Forum Members and jeopardize economic and social development.

The Pacific has also identified climate change as the single greatest threat facing the region.

Meanwhile, Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele is expected to travel to Suva, Fiji Friday to meet with various organisation regarding the SI-China security treaty.

This is to allow Manele to explain the pros and cons of the security agreement in response to concerns raised about its regional implication.

Permanent Secretary Collin Beck confirmed to the media that Solomon Islands was in consultation with number of countries by phone and visits by bigger countries who could afford to come and have a dialogue with the government.

He said for the rest of the countries, government is engaged with them through the phone and virtual means.

“But we see it important to be there in persons to talk to them and assure them on the spirit of what we have done in addressing our domestic security issues in terms of having a cooperation with China.

“We can learn from other countries who have similar and different cooperation with China as well,” he said.

Further to that, Beck said there will no one single meeting.

He said there will be meetings with our sub regional groups, Pacific Small Islands Developing countries and wider Pacific Islands Forum members.

Beck said there will be some meetings in Australia on route or scheduled when he returns through Brisbane.

Manele told Parliament that in the last few weeks, he talked with a number of Solomon Islands traditional development partners and a few Forum Island countries to clarify and allay their concerns about the SI-PRC Treaty.

“I also had a zoom meeting with the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and outlined to him what the treaty is about and not about.

“All the partners or countries I have talked to, respect the sovereign decision we have taken while expressing some concerns.

“Sir, as you know disagreements within the Forum Family or any relationships are not bad,” he told Parliament.

Manele said it shows the maturity of our relationship and the respect we have for each other.

Parliament has adjourned to Monday 28 July 2022.

SOURCE: ISLAND SUN/ PACNEWS