China says it will consult Australia on any future Sino-Pacific island security pacts after a policing agreement with the Solomon Islands took the region by surprise.
The region’s central body, the Pacific Islands Forum of which Australia is a part, has said any security deals or propositions needed to come through the Forum and any problems should first be addressed by member states.
China’s Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian defended the secret security pact with Honiara, saying it was about policing as the Pacific nation didn’t have a defence force.
The Ambassador said Beijing has opened its dialogue with Canberra to work together in the region.
He said Beijing was periodically briefing Australia through diplomatic channels about its relationships with nations in the region.
“We respect Australia’s role as the biggest country in this region. That’s why we will be notifying in advance about our relationship with Pacific island countries to the Australian side,” he said on Thursday.
Xiao said it meant there would be more confidence between China and Australia, and that Beijing’s role in the region would be complementary and help stability in the region.
“We’re just wanting to develop a friendly and collaborative relationship with countries in the Pacific to maintain that relationship,” he said.
“To engage with the economic trade relations and help those countries for their stability, social harmony and prosperity.”
The United States is set to sign two defence pacts with Papua New Guinea.
The signings are still set to proceed despite Joe Biden not attending a meeting in PNG to concentrate on negotiations with Congress over the debt ceiling, to avoid a default that could lead to catastrophic economic consequences.
One would strengthen military and police co-operation while the second pact would have allowed the US coast guard to patrol the nation’s waters and give Port Moresby access to satellite surveillance.
Prime Minister James Marape has raised concerns about illegal fishing and drug smuggling in PNG waters.
Australia is also working to net its own defence agreement with PNG, which is set to be signed in June.
Xiao said China had a good relationship with PNG that was not linked to what it did with the U.S as Beijing lobbies to take on a bigger role in the region.
“This is just a normal kind of relationship,” he said.
“It’s not going to harm in any way America’s interests, Australia’s interest. On the contrary, China’s presence in the region is a positive element, is conducive to peace and stability and even more economic prosperity,” he said.