By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s new overseas minister visited the Solomon Islands on Friday to guarantee the South Pacific island nation it doesn’t want a safety pact with China.
The Solomons is the fifth Pacific nation that Foreign Minister Penny Wong has visited since her center-left Labor Party got here to energy in May 21 elections.
She is the primary Australian minister to go to the Solomons since its authorities signed a secretive safety pact with China that many worry may lead to a Chinese naval base being established inside 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of Australia’s northeast coast.
Wong described her talks with Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare as “constructive” and “large ranging.”
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“Australia’s view does stay that the Pacific household must be liable for our safety and the Pacific household’s greater than able to offering that safety,” Wong advised reporters within the capital, Honiara.
“I welcomed Prime Minister Sogavare’s reassurances that there is not going to be a army base nor persistent army presence right here in Solomon Islands, and I welcome his assurance that Australia stays Solomon Islands first safety companion of alternative and first improvement companion of alternative,” she added.
Sogavare’s workplace didn’t instantly reply to the AP’s request for remark.
Australia is the Solomons’ most beneficiant donor of overseas assist and, like China, has a bilateral safety pact with the restive nation of 700,000.
Australian police have been sustaining peace in Honiara since riots in November final yr.
When the Sino-Solomons pact was signed through the current Australian election marketing campaign, Wong described it as Australia’s worst overseas coverage failure within the Pacific since World War II.
The new Australian authorities is promising extra motion on local weather change and higher engagement with Australia’s island neighbors.
Wong introduced in Honiara that Australia will donate up to 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for youngsters aged 5 to 11. Australia has already supplied the Solomons with greater than 500,000 doses.
Australia’s former minister for worldwide improvement and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, flew to Honiara in April to unsuccessfully urge Sogavare to abandon plans to signal the Chinese pact.
Seselja arrived on the identical day that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke with the Solomons’ authorities about Washington’s plan to reopen an embassy in Honiara.
A U.S. delegation to Honiara led by Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator, and Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, warned after the pact was signed that the United States would take unspecified motion towards the Solomons ought to the settlement with China pose a menace to U.S. or allied pursuits.
Sogavare accused the U.S. and Australia of threatening and disrespectful habits.
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