Solomon Islands defends police deal with China

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signed the deal with China during a week-long visit

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signed the deal with China during a week-long visit Photo: AAP

The Solomon Islands has denied suggestions its policing deal with China is a threat to peace in the Pacific, saying the pact will enhance its capabilities in cyber security and community policing.

Australia, the US, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands’ opposition party have called for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to “immediately” publish details of the policing deal signed in Beijing on Monday, amid concern it will invite further regional contest.

In a statement on Friday, Sogavare’s office said the Pacific Islands nation was broadening its security partnerships, and the Chinese police will add to the existing Australia and New Zealand policing support of its 1500 officers.

“No one has a monopoly of knowledge,” it said.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she had “conveyed Australia’s clear views on security in the Pacific” in a meeting with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Jakarta on Thursday night.

“Solomon Islands Government fails to see how the improvement of (Royal Solomon Islands Police Force) traffic control and management system in Honiara, provision of police equipment or the completion of the Forensic Autopsy Lab is a threat to the Pacific region peace and security,” said the statement from Sogavare’s office.

Riots in the capital Honiara in 2021 exposed gaps in the islands’ policing, it said.

Australian and New Zealand police deployed to Solomon Islands in response to the riots at Sogavare’s request, and previously led a decade-long international security force to maintain peace after the internal conflict.

In the week before his China visit, Sogavare announced Australia’s security treaty would be reviewed.

Solomon Islands Opposition Leader Matthew Wale said in a statement “policing is different in democracies than in communist countries and democracies must uphold human rights and due process”.

The issue was not China’s supply of security equipment, but the compatibility of Chinese and Pacific policing, said Meg Keen, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands program.

“It is critical how the equipment is used, particularly guns and water cannons,” she said.

On his visit to Beijing this week, his first since striking a security pact with China last year, Sogavare pledged support for China’s Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative policy, which pair Chinese infrastructure investment and security.

Solomon Islands has a population of 700,000, across an archipelago that occupies a strategic position in the Pacific Islands, and was pivotal to the US move west across the Pacific to liberate the Philippines in World War II.

Tensions over Taiwan have raised concerns in Washington and Canberra over China’s naval ambitions in the region.

“Our fear is that in the near future China’s interest will clash with US influence and strategic interests in the region and we are right in the middle of it all,” opposition leader Wale added.


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