According to the Daily Mail, a leaked document outlining a security agreement between Beijing and the Solomon Islands' government in the capital Honiara prompted Canberra to sound the alarm on China's presence. The draft security agreement would allow the Solomon Islands to "request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces to the country. It also permitted Chinese vessels to "make ship visits, carry out logistical replenishment and have stopover and transition [operations] in the Solomon Islands."
In 2019, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare broke off diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of the mainland. Sogavare's government received about $730 million from Beijing following the move. This did not sit well with the locals, who believe the money was paid in exchange for their country's sovereignty. Opposition politicians claimed that Beijing was responsible for funding the prime minister's political campaign.
In Papua New Guinea, a Beijing-backed firm submitted a proposal to the government back in April 2020. Hong Kong-based WYW Holding Limited showed its plans to build the $39 billion New Daru City at the island of Daru, located just 200 kilometers from the Cape York peninsula in the Australian state of Queensland. Once built, the 100-square-kilometer New Daru City would include a major sea port, an industrial zone and a commercial business district. It would also have a resort for tourists and vast residential areas.
However, the deal to build New Daru City would be "predicated on an agreed sovereign guarantee based on a long-term BOT [build, operate, transfer] contract." This meant that under the contract, WYW would have total ownership of the project for an undetermined period of time before its ownership is transferred to Port Moresby.
Former Australian diplomat Mihai Sora told the Daily Mail: "China is looking to expand its ability to project force around the globe, and the South Pacific is not immune to that."
"The security cooperation agreement that potentially involves Chinese military assets transiting or basing in the region would have the effect of blocking naval and military assets from other countries like Australia," added Mihai, a fellow at the New South Wales-based think tank Lowy Institute. "That would be destabilizing because it would potentially limit the freedom of movement within the Pacific."
Mihai acknowledged that Canberra has given varied amounts of attention to South Pacific countries, with the Pacific Step-Up aid program serving as "an attempt to correct that perception of neglect." The former Australian diplomat to the Solomon Islands remarked that while the country needs to do more to engage its neighbors in the South Pacific, "the problem is when it comes to budget."
In response, the U.S. has deployed members of the Marine Corps to Australia's Northern Territory to train alongside the Australian Defense Force (ADF). The contingent of approximately 2,200 Marines assigned on a rotational basis will join the ADF Northern Command until September 2022, 100PercentFedUp.com reported. (Related: Thousands of Marines deployed to Australia in preparation for a possible war with CHINA.)
The deployment is "a key way [to] increase regional cooperation with partners in the Indo-Pacific," said Colonel Marcus Constable of the ADF Northern Command. "Together we conduct a comprehensive range of training activities including humanitarian assistance, security operations and high-end live-fire exercises."
Back in 2021, Beijing warned through state media that Australia would suffer a "heavy attack" in case the ADF comes to the aid of Taiwan. The communist country also mentioned the possible use of nuclear weapons in response to the tripartite AUKUS security pact, which will allow the ADF to obtain nuclear-powered submarines.
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Watch this news report about the security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands.
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