The Solomon Islands has entered into an agreement with China to enhance cooperation on “law enforcement and security matters,” a move that is likely to raise concerns among the country’s traditional partners, including Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
Details of the agreement were not immediately released but were included in a joint statement made public on Tuesday following a meeting in Beijing between Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
The agreement is part of efforts to establish a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two nations. It states that the Chinese side will continue to support and assist the Solomon Islands in strengthening its police law enforcement capacity as needed.
Situated 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) northeast of Australia, the Solomon Islands has been China’s most significant achievement in its campaign to expand its presence in the South Pacific. In 2019, Sogavare’s government switched its official recognition from Taiwan to Beijing, which China claims as part of its territory.
In 2022, the Solomon Islands signed a secretive security agreement with Beijing, which raised concerns about the possibility of Chinese military forces gaining a foothold in the South Pacific. However, Sogavare dismissed suggestions that his government would provide China with a military presence in the region.
Another neighbouring island nation, Kiribati, also switched its official relations to Beijing in 2019.
China has already provided the Solomon Islands with police training and donated replica guns and riot-control equipment, including water cannon vehicles. The Solomon Islands, consisting of six major islands and around 900 smaller ones, is home to a population of 700,000. The country has experienced periods of ethnic tension, during which Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific island nations have deployed forces to help restore order.