China Solomon Islands security deal: Australia trusts Solomon Islands on Chinese military base, Dutton says

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has insisted Australia wants a “strong friendship” with the Solomon Islands despite reports its Prime Minister will invite Chinese forces there.
Mr Dutton was speaking on Today this morning after The Australian newspaper reported Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is likely to install a “strongarm” force.

“(Prime Minister) Manasseh has said he will not allow a military base in terms of the Solomon Islands, we take him at his word,” Mr Dutton said.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, left, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The Pacific nation has singed a controversial security deal with China. (AP)

“We’ve got Australian Federal Police and troops there at the moment … We’ve been a trusted partner for a long period of some time.”

The Solomon Islands last month signed a security deal with China that could see Beijing set up a military base there.

Mr Dutton said growing Chinese assertiveness in the Pacific was not just a challenge for Australia but for other nations such as Japan and India.

“The Chinese operate by a very different presence of a security force within Africa and elsewhere,” Mr Dutton said.

Australia has deployed federal police and soldiers to the Solomon Islands but there are reports the nation’s Prime Minister wants to install Chinese forces there. (AP)

On Wednesday, Mr Sogavare launched a broadside against countries critical of its new deal with China, claiming the Pacific nation had been “threatened with invasion”.

In a full-throated defence of the pact, which many experts fear allows China to establish a military presence less than 2000km from the Queensland coast, he hit out at the “glaring hypocrisy” of “some of our partners working with their agents on the ground”

Why the South China Sea dispute matters

“We are threatened with invasion, Mr Speaker, and that’s serious,” Mr Sogavare told Parliament.

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