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Solomon Islands signs controversial deal with China

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This time it’s signed. Beijing announced on Tuesday April 19 that it had signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, despite the strong reluctance expressed by several Western countries who are worried about Chinese military ambitions in the Pacific.

→ THE FACTS. Armed peace returns to the Solomon Islands

At the end of 2021, the Solomon Islands had been rocked by deadly riots fueled by the resentment of part of the population towards the growing influence of China in the region. Businesses run by Chinese were then vandalized and burned in the capital, Honiara. At the government’s request, Australia had been one of the actors in the region that deployed peacekeeping forces to the Solomon Islands. For its part, Beijing had sent police instructors and riot control equipment, and has since sought to strengthen its protection system on the island.

“An element of influence”

A draft of the deal leaked last month, sending shock waves through Australia. Indeed, the agreement included proposals authorizing Chinese police and naval deployments in the archipelago. Australia and the United States have long worried about the possibility of China building a naval base in the South Pacific.

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Emmanuel Véron, specialist in contemporary China, teacher-researcher at the Naval Academy and at Inalco, specifies that, “Through this agreement which has a strong security component, one can wonder if we are not on an element of Chinese influence placed in an American zone of influence”. According to Wang Webin, spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, this agreement is a cooperation “normal between two sovereign and independent countries”. According to him, the agreement will support “long-term stability” of the Solomon Islands. “As so often, the Chinese show greatgreat opacity in most contracts and in calls for tenders to invest in the area”believes Emmanuel Véron.

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“A disturbing precedent”

In recent weeks, Australia and the United States have stepped up diplomatic efforts to dissuade the Solomon Islands from getting closer to Beijing. “We believe that the signing of such an agreement would risk increasing destabilization within the Solomon Islands and setting a worrying precedent for the Pacific Islands region as a whole.”estimated yesterday the spokesman of the American diplomacy, Ned Price.

The United States has announced the sending of a diplomatic delegation for a tour in the Pacific, with the Solomon Islands as a priority, to counter Chinese ambitions. Protesters in November 2021 blamed the islands’ prime minister for wanting to forge closer ties with Beijing after severing longstanding ties with Taiwan in 2019. The United States announced in February that it would reopen an embassy in the Solomon Islands after 29 years of closure.

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