Australia: China-Solomons security pact 'foreign policy failure'

Source: AAP

The signing of a Sino-Solomons security pact has been described as the worst Australian foreign policy failure in the Pacific since World War II.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Prime Minister Manasseh Damukana Sogavare (not pictured) of the Solomon Islands at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on October 9, 2019 in Beijing, China

Labour foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong says a Chinese security agreement with a nation 1600 kilometres from Cairns has made the region less secure.

"On Scott Morrison's watch our region has become less secure and the risks that Australia faces have become much greater," Senator Wong told the ABC.

"The government should have acted sooner. We live in a world where the strategic circumstances we face are riskier and more uncertain than in any time since the end of World War II."

Despite repeated assertions from the Solomon Islands that Australia remains its security partner of choice, Senator Wong says the pact with China has demonstrated Canberra is no longer the go-to for Honiara.

"What this deal signifies is that Australia is no longer for the Solomon Islands a nation to whom they turn to meet their challenges in every instance," she said.

But Foreign Minister Marise Payne says criticism of the government doesn't recognise the "the sovereign decisions that governments make for themselves".

"It also doesn't recognise the strength and the engagement that Australia has made through the Pacific step up," Senator Payne told the ABC.

"We are looking at very serious geostrategic challenges in our region."

The foreign minister expressed her deep disappointment in the signing of the security agreement when it was made public by the Chinese on Tuesday night.

Senator Payne says Australia remains concerned about the lack of transparency regarding the agreement.

"This has not been agreed in an open and transparent way - not being consulted, for example, across the region," she said.

"Security issues have been dealt with in a Pacific-wide manner, that's the traditional approach for these issues, and that's why some Pacific partners have also raised concerns."

Senator Payne says the Pacific family remains the best suited to deal with Pacific problems and noted Australia remains the Solomon Islands' largest development partner.