The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand on Wednesday accused China of “undermining” the balance of the South Pacific by signing a new police cooperation pact with the Solomon Islands.

Anthony Albanese and Chris Hipkins said that the agreement, signed at the beginning of the month between Beijing and Honiara and similar to the one that the Solomon Islands has with and Australia and New Zealand, “would undermine the Pacific’s agreed regional security norms,” according to the joint statement issued after their meeting in Wellington.

Albanese and Hipkins said the agreement is “inconsistent” with the commitments and approach adopted by the Pacific Islands Forum, which has insisted that security be addressed among the 18 members of the bloc (of which neither the United States nor China are a member, but Australia and New Zealand are).

The police cooperation agreement between China and the Solomons provides for the training of 1,500 officers, the acquisition of equipment and vehicles, assistance in cybersecurity, as well as the extension of the presence of the Chinese police at the request of Honiara until 2025.

According to the government of the Solomons, the agreement with Beijing will allow the country to fill the “gaps” that became evident in the riots of 2006 and 2021, the latter caused by popular discontent over the growing Chinese influence, and which resulted in three deaths.

Australia, New Zealand and other South Pacific nations look with suspicion at the government of Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who reestablished diplomatic ties with Beijing after breaking its alliance with Taiwan, since signing a security pact with the Asian giant in April 2022.

This pact, independent of the recent one on police cooperation, was a turning point in relations between China and the Solomons, and has led Australia, New Zealand and the US to increase their presence in the area.

In this sense, Albanese and Hipkins applauded in Wednesday’s statement the “increased engagement” shown by the U.S and the United Kingdom in the Indo-Pacific through the Aukus security pact between Washington, London and Canberra, and which includes the acquisition and development of nuclear submarines in Australia.

Albanese and Hipkins also discussed Aukus, given the interest of New Zealand – a denuclearised nation – in joining the technological and security areas of this partnership.