The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands is Monaco Sogaware rejected foreign criticism of the country’s security talks with China as “insulting” and called those who put forward the draft agreement “crazy” in his first comments in parliament on the proposed agreement.
“We find it very offensive, Mr. Speaker, to be sworn in as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs,” Sogavar said on Tuesday.
A leakage of draft security agreement negotiations between China and the Solomon Islands have caused alarm in the Pacific, including in Australia and New Zealand. The two neighbors are concerned that this could jeopardize regional stability, as China has the ability to deploy warships in the Pacific Ocean less than 2,000 km off the coast of Australia.
Sogavar did not provide more details on the content of the security agreement, but when parliament later pressured the talks, he said it was “ready to be signed”.
The Prime Minister has targeted the Australian media for this China pressed on the islands before the conclusion of the treaty, calling the claims “unfounded” and “very offensive.”
News Corp article late last week also quotes a commentator who said that Australia “should be prepared to invade Solomon Islands and overthrow its government if necessary to end the proposed security pact between China and the Pacific”.
Sogavar said: “Mr Speaker, discussions in the Australian public media that encourage the invasion of Solomon Islands to force regime change are not conducive to strengthening our bilateral relations. If a helpless mouse is driven into a corner by angry cats, it will do anything to survive.
“We welcome any country that wants to support us in our security space. There is no insidious intention or secret plan – it is a decision of a sovereign nation with national interests, “he added.
The treaty can only be activated at the request of the nation, Sogawar said, adding that it was “complete nonsense” that China’s presence in the region is a security threat.
“Our new friends are not pressuring us in any way, and we have no intention of asking China to build a military base in the Solomon Islands,” he said.
He added that the Solomon Islands had previously asked Australia to build a naval base, and this was refused because Australia said it was inappropriate given its defense program with Papua New Guinea.
Sogavar said he did not intend to “engage in any geopolitical struggle for power”, adding that the nation would not “choose a side”.
The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019which partly caused discontent, which led to riots in the capital Haniari in November.
About 200 police officers and soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea arrived in Haniyara within days of the riots at Sogawara’s request, but found themselves in competition with China, which also agreed to send police.
Sogavar said he had talks with the leaders of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji after the document leaked, and commented that the island’s traditional security partners were “always important” to them.
“I would like to make it clear that the Solomon Islands security agreement with Australia remains intact,” he said. New Zealand also remain a close partner in critical times.
“But in order to move forward… to meet our security needs, it is clear that we need to diversify the country’s relations with other partners. What’s wrong with that? ”
Sogavar said the approach to security was not made in vain and without taking into account the country’s partners, adding that it was “sad” that he was perceived as insensitive to external problems.
“We are having this discussion now, Mr. Speaker, because some lunatics and agents of foreign regimes in the government system do not value secrecy. There are people who exist only to undermine the work of the legitimate authorities. “
He said the Solomon Islands are not different in that they want a peaceful and stable society, but the lack of development, especially infrastructure, affects national security. “In this context, the Solomon Islands will seek to partner with friendly foreign governments.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called with his New Zealand counterpart Jasinda Ardern on Tuesday, and a key issue of concern was Beijing’s demand for a security agreement with Solomon Islands.
“They discussed the proposed Solomon Islands-China security agreement and their shared concerns about any actions that undermine security and stability in the Pacific. They discussed their current commitment as members of the Pacific family to the Solomon Islands Relief Force, ”the Australian reading said.
Morrison’s call came after talks with counterparts from Papua New Guinea and Fiji on Monday.
The Australian government did not immediately respond to Sovagar’s speech, in which he also said he was “extremely grateful” for Australia’s “generous” offer last week to build a second patrol boat outpost in the eastern province of Temoth.
But Canberra, whose relations with Beijing have deteriorated sharply over the past few years and has raised concerns about China’s intentions in the Pacific, says the “Pacific family” is in a better position to provide security assistance to Solomon Islands.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was referring to China on Monday when he said Australia was “not blind to the tactics of other people” who “tried to limit our ability to move and intimidate us”.
Australia’s High Commissioner for the Solomon Islands, Lahlan Strahan, said Monday that Australia had expressed concern about the Solomon Islands over the proposed agreement “regularly and with respect”.
Growing concerns about China’s military build-up and strategic intentions also backed Australia’s decision last year to agree on an Aukus security partnership with the United States and Britain, which includes plans to build at least eight nuclear submarines.