China and Solomon Islands have signed a deal on police cooperation as part of an upgrade of their relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”, four years after the Pacific country switched ties from Taiwan to Beijing.
The police cooperation pact was among nine deals signed as the prime minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, met with the Chinese premier, Li Qiang, in Beijing, underlining the Solmons’ foreign policy shift.
Sogavare arrived in China on Sunday for his first visit since the two countries struck a security pact in 2022 to the alarm of the U.S and some Pacific neighbours including Australia.
“In just four years the relationship between China and Solomon Islands has developed rapidly, and we can now say that it is very fruitful,” Li told Sogavare.
Sogavare, in turn, thanked China for its role in addressing global challenges and said his country had “a lot to learn” from China’s experience.
A spokesperson for the U.S national security council said Washington “respects the ability of nations to make sovereign decisions in the best interests of their people” while encouraging the sides “to release these texts immediately to increase transparency and inform discussions about the impacts of these agreements on regional security”.
The official added that the U.S was committed to a strong relationship with the region and strengthening longstanding bonds with the people of Solomon Islands.
Sogavare switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing when he came to power in 2019.
Last month Sogavare called for a review of a 2017 security treaty with Australia, which has historically provided policing support to Solomon Islands, including the rapid deployment of police in 2021 to quell riots, although China has increased its police training since then.
China will continue to provide assistance to Solomon Islands to enhance its law enforcement capacity, according to a joint statement released by China’s official Xinhua news agency.
Sogavare also met China’s president, Xi Jinping, on Monday and the two agreed to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership, according to Chinese state television.
Xi told Sogavare that China supported more of its firms investing in Solomon Islands and would continue to provide economic and technical assistance “without political strings attached”.
The Chinese telecoms company Huawei is building a cellular network in Solomon Islands, financed by a US$66m Chinese EXIM bank loan, and a Chinese state company will redevelop the port in the capital, Honiara.
Sogavare will be in China until Saturday and is due to officially open his country’s embassy in Beijing.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN/PACNEWS