Solomon Islands Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles says Australia is ready to provide an ongoing security presence in the Solomon Islands.
Marles, who is also the defence minister, was speaking on Thursday from the Pacific Island nation’s capital Honiara, where he reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to regional security.
“We made clear that if it was the Solomons’ wish for SIAF (Solomons International Assistance Force) to continue, then Australia stood ready for that to occur,” he told reporters.
“And that we were happy to support a continuation of the SIAF’s presence in supporting the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force as necessary.
“We wanted to make completely clear that from the perspective of Australia, we stood ready for that support to be provided for as long as possible.”
Marles said the government was aware the Solomon Islands were due to hold the Pacific Games in November and elections in April, with peaceful security environments “critical” for both events.
On Monday, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare issued a statement after a meeting with Marles, calling for a review of the “current security treaty between the two countries”.
“… to take into account the changing security challenges faced by both countries,” the statement reads.
Asked if the changes sought by Sogavare had been expressed to him, Marles replied: “No”.
Marles announced a $25 million (US$16.5 million) commitment to help the Solomon Islands with next year’s elections, in addition to replacing some of the nation’s small boat fleet for the police force.
He reaffirmed Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines won’t impact on its ability to meet its obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty.
Marles pledged Australia would not acquire nuclear weapons, and that they would never operate from Australia.
“We’re really mindful of the sensitivity that exists rightly within the Pacific,” he said.