Sat, 25 Jun 2022

Honiara [Solomon Islands], May 26 (ANI): China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday said that Beijing has "no intention at all" to build a military base in Solomon Islands.

Under the watchful eye of the United States, Chinese Foreign Minister paid an official visit to South Pacific island countries starting today to ramp up ties with tiny but strategically located island nations.

The Chinese minister dismissed international concerns about the security agreement Beijing sealed last month with Honiara, saying it was "above board, with honesty and integrity".

Wang stressed that the security cooperation between the two countries is open and aboveboard. "It is not imposed on others, nor targeted at any third party, and China has no intention of establishing a military base in the Solomon Islands," he said as cited by Xinhua News Agency.

The Chinese Minister met with Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele and exchanged views on further improving bilateral ties and expanding pragmatic cooperation in various fields.

According to Xinhua News Agency, the two sides agreed to join hands to forge flagship mega-projects of the Road and Belt Initiative (BRI) and make good use of the preferential policies for tariff-free exports to China and help the Solomon Islands fully tap its resource advantages and development potentials.

A draft communique and five-year action plan were sent by China to 10 Pacific island nations that have diplomatic ties with Beijing, ahead of a foreign ministers' meeting on May 30, Kyodo News Agency reported citing ABC.

Wang is on an eight-country tour of the Pacific islands.

Earlier in April, the Solomon Islands clarified that it won't allow any foriegn country to build military bases in the country following the speculations that were raised after the signing of security cooperation with China.

"Government is conscious of the security ramification of hosting a military base, and it will not be careless to allow such initiative to take place under its watch," a government statement said, adding that, "contrary to the misinformation promoted by anti-government commentators" the (security) agreement did not invite China to establish a military base in the country, The Diplomat reported.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on security cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands was signed on March 18. It allowed China to send police, Armed Police, military personnel and other law enforcement forces to the Solomon Islands, on request, to assist in maintaining social order and accomplish other tasks agreed upon by both countries, according to media reports.

Under the provisions of the MoU, Chinese naval vessels can carry out logistical replenishments and Chinese armed forces can be moved to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands government said on Thursday that only a draft agreement of the new security pact had been initialled by representatives from the Solomons and China and that the agreement would be "cleaned up".

According to the report, Article 5 of the MoU stipulates that the nature of cooperation agreed upon cannot be disclosed to a "third party" without the consent of both parties.

Earlier, in 2019, the Solomon Islands switched its diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing. The country already has had a bilateral security agreement with Australia since 2017.

The signing of a security partnership with Beijing has caused concerns in Canberra, as it views the development as part of an attempt by Beijing to set up a military base in the region.

Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands is also negotiating several other MoUs with China including on Civil Aviation Services and Expanding Trade under Non-Reciprocal Trading Arrangement, the report said. (ANI)

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