Defence Minister Richard Marles calms waters in Solomon Islands visit

Richard Marles talked security with Solomon Islands PM Manasseh Sogavare on Wednesday.

Richard Marles talked security with Solomon Islands PM Manasseh Sogavare on Wednesday. Photo: AAP

Defence Minister Richard Marles has met with the Solomon Islands prime minister for crucial security talks as China looks to strengthen its position in the Pacific.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare hosted the meeting with Mr Marles as part of his first ministerial trip to the Pacific nation.

Mr Marles said on Twitter he had a “productive meeting” with Mr Sogavare and the pair had discussed the “deepening partnership between our two countries, including through regional security, infrastructure, labour mobility and health”.

The defence minister also met members of the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force that includes Australian, Fijian and New Zealand police deployed in 2021 at Mr Sogavare’s request to quell anti-government riots.

The force “demonstrates that when the Pacific family works together, we can respond to the peace and security needs of our region”, Mr Marles said.

Australia is a major aid donor and has a decades-long security relationship with the Solomon Islands.

Tensions in the Pacific flared in 2022 after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands government.

Mr Sogavare told parliament he expected to travel to China next week, and his office said details of the visit were being finalised.

Mr Marles said Australia’s relationship with the Solomon Islands was “more important than ever”.

“That is why we will continue to ensure Australia’s engagement across all sectors, including on jobs, health and security, is responsive to Solomon Islands’ needs and fit for purpose,” he said.

-with Reuters

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