FILE PHOTO: Solomon Islands Premier Manasseh Sogavare and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
March 24, 2022
By Kirsty Needham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Solomon Islands have signed a police deal with China and will submit a proposal for a broader security deal for the military to its cabinet for consideration, a Pacific island nation government official said on Thursday.
The deals are likely to affect the United States, which said in February it would open an embassy in the Solomon Islands after senior US administration officials raised concerns that China was looking to develop military ties in the Pacific islands.
Solomon Islands shifted diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, fueling in part discontent that sparked unrest in the capital, Honiara, in November.
Australia has in the past provided security support to the Solomon Islands at the request of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and led a police mission to restore order after riots.
Karen Galokale, permanent secretary of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services, told Reuters that a cooperation agreement signed between Solomon Islands and China concerns policing. She confirmed that a more comprehensive agreement was being discussed.
“Any other comprehensive security agreement would be the same as the Australian agreement,” she told Reuters in a telephone interview, giving the first public confirmation of the comprehensive security talks.
“This has to go to the cabinet,” she said.
Australia has a bilateral security agreement with the Solomon Islands, covering deployment of police and armed forces, which was signed in 2018.
Solomon Islands Police Minister Anthony Veke said in a statement on Thursday that he signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on police cooperation in a virtual meeting with Wang Xiaohong, deputy executive minister of China’s Ministry of Public Security on March 18.
“Signing this MOU simply shows the global community that we are here building a meaningful collaboration based on teamwork and seriousness to develop the Solomon Islands,” Veke said.
Galokale also took part in the virtual meeting.
A draft copy of a security memorandum of understanding circulated on social media said it would cover the Chinese police, armed police and military supporting the Solomon Islands in social order, disaster relief and protecting the safety of Chinese personnel and Support major projects in the Solomon Islands.
Galokale said she was aware of the reports on social media and would not speculate on the timing of the process to approve a security cooperation agreement with China.
“We have a comprehensive security agreement with Australia and police cooperation. If there is something with the PRC, it will be the same,” she said, referring to China.
On Tuesday, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force published photos of police training with replica guns provided by China on its website.
In November, some 200 police and soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea arrived in Honiara within days of the riots to help restore order.
Galokale said the police agreement with China is the same as agreements Solomon Islands already had with countries like Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Australia’s Home Secretary Karen Andrews told reporters the Pacific is Australia’s “backyard” when asked about the possibility of a Chinese military operation in the Solomon Islands.
“In terms of China, in terms of the Pacific region, that’s our backyard, that’s our neighborhood, and we’re very concerned [at] every activity that takes place in the Pacific Islands,” she said.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Robert Birsel)
https://www.oann.com/exclusive-solomon-islands-considers-security-cooperation-with-china-official/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exclusive-solomon-islands-considers-security-cooperation-with-china-official Exclusive Solomon Islands consider security cooperation with China official