Forging diplomatic relations with China is one of the most significant decisions the Solomon Islands has made over the last 45 years since its independence, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare has said.
Sogavare made these remarks in a recent interview with Xinhua, ahead of his official visit to China starting on Sunday, his second one since the Pacific island country established diplomatic ties with China in September 2019.
“I am confident that the outcome of my visit to China will be positive,” Sogavare said.
“In general, I’m hoping that this trip will further strengthen the Solomon Islands-China relations. We progress and stand shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, in pursuing issues of common interest to the two countries,” he said.
Moreover, the prime minister reaffirmed his country’s adherence to the One-China policy, adding that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.
“I need to make it very clear that we are a sovereign country. Who we forge diplomatic relations with and who we engage in technical cooperation, in development cooperation, is none of anyone’s business. It is a matter between the Solomon Islands and China,” he noted.
Sogavare said the Solomon Islands focused on development. As a developing country, the Solomon Islands needs help and continues to look to China.
China has become the Solomon Islands’ biggest trading partner and export destination, with the bilateral trade reaching US$498 million in 2022 and exports to China accounting for two-thirds of the island country’s total exports, according to the Chinese embassy in the Solomon Islands.
Sogavare hoped the two countries could expand cooperation in various areas, including trade, technology, sustainable development and education.
He also encouraged more foreign direct investment in the country, with massive tourism, fisheries and agriculture opportunities.
“China has signed partnership agreements on various areas that are of paramount importance to the Pacific island countries like the Solomon Islands, which include the impacts of climate change,” he said.
“China does not only talk about it. It has taken serious steps to address these issues, and these are issues that are dear to the heart of small island states,” he said.
“This is an area which we believe there should not be any competition between great powers. It is an area that they need to cooperate, work together to assist us and this is what your country’s doing,” he said.
During the interview, Sogavare spoke highly of the cooperation between the Solomon Islands and China, especially on the stadium project for the 2023 Pacific Games, which is being constructed in Honiara with Chinese aid.
“When we won the bid (for the Pacific Games), no other nations believed in us. We were struggling, and China stood by our side and assisted us,” he said.
“It’s the first time that we will host this game. It is very important for us. We are a post-conflict country. That great investment is not only an investment in sport; it is an investment in peace and stability of this country,” he emphasised.
He added that China’s aid to his country in hosting the Games is “something that touches the hearts of every Solomon Islander, and it has strengthened the people-to-people relationship.”
“We have a friend, a genuine friend that recognises us,” Sogavare said.