Leaked agreement points to growing Chinese influence in Solomons

Source: 1News

The New Zealand Government has gone to Beijing with concerns that China's about to make a military move in the Pacific.

Leaked documents suggest the Solomon Islands has signed a policing and security deal with China that could extend to military and naval involvement.

Policing periods of unrest in the Solomon’s has historically been handled by New Zealand and Australia and the move is fuelling fears of Chinese influence.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta says the situation could destabilise the region's security.

"If genuine, this agreement would be very concerning. Such agreements will always be the right of any sovereign country to enter into, however developments within this purported agreement could destabilise the current institutions and arrangements that have long underpinned the Pacific region’s security," Mahuta said.

"This would not benefit New Zealand or our Pacific neighbours."

Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton described the situation as “unsettling”.

“We want peace and stability in our region we don’t want unsettling influences and we don’t want the pressure and exertion that we are seeing from China continue to roll out in the region," he said.

Professor Steven Ratuva, the director of the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at Canterbury University, says the move marks a bold shift in Beijing’s approach.

“Chinese involvement in the pacific has been largely through aid…this is the very first time that a direct internal intervention has taken place.”

He says the agreement will increase the chance of potential conflict and “will probably make the geo-political dynamics in the Pacific even more tense in the long run".

Chinese police are also training the country’s local force, sending crates of replica assault rifles via a logging ship.

Massey University’s Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies Dr Anna Powles says this raises the question of whether Beijing may commit to providing “the real McCoy”.

“The purpose of the replica weapons is to use them as training weapons and then replace them once police have skilled.”

In 2019, the tiny Island nation ended it’s 36-year recognition of Taiwan, marking a shift in allegiance leading, in part, to riots throughout the capital of Honiara.