onsdag 20. april 2022

The deal that shocked the world: inside the China-Solomons security pact

The rumours started in August. Chatter surfaced among the political class in Honiara that China and Solomon Islands were negotiating a security agreement which could allow Beijing to send military and police personnel to its new Pacific ally, and base naval vessels on the islands.

If the rumours proved to be true, it would be the first known bilateral security agreement between China and a country in the Pacific, a region that has become the centre of a geopolitical and strategic tug of war between China and the US and Australia in recent years. And if Australia’s gravest fears were realised, such an agreement could also allow China to establish a military base less than 2,000km from its eastern border.

Matthew Wale, the leader of the Solomon Islands opposition, says he first learned of the proposed deal in mid-2021 from a source. He claims the deal was being negotiated by a very small team of elected representatives trusted by the prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, but was being kept secret from everyone outside this tight circle including the rest of Sogavare’s cabinet.