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Solomons confirms security talks with China, won’t ‘choose sides’

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare addresses the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York
FILE PHOTO: Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S. September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

March 29, 2022

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in his initial comments on a proposed security deal that the backlash to his country’s security negotiations with China was “very offensive”.

Sogavare told his parliament Tuesday a leaked security document with China was a draft and he would not give details on the content of a proposed deal.

“We are not being pressured in any way by our new friends and there is no intention of asking China to set up a military base in the Solomon Islands,” he said.

He added that Solomon Islands had previously asked Australia to build a naval base and this was turned down because Australia said it was inappropriate given its defense program with Papua New Guinea.

“We have no intention, Mr. Speaker, of getting involved in a geopolitical power struggle,” he said, adding that the Pacific Island nation would not “choose sides.”

Australia, New Zealand and the United States have expressed concern over the possibility of a security pact between the Pacific island and China that could result in a military base. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern said on Monday it was a “potential militarization of the region”.

Sogavare said he exchanged text messages with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the matter and also wrote him a letter on Tuesday morning.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Stephen Coates)

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Bobby Allyn

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