SYDNEY: Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare told his Australian counterpart on Thursday he would not do anything that undermined Pacific security and would not allow military bases in his country under a security deal with China, media reported.
Sogavare met his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese in a brief visit to Canberra, and the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported he said Australia remained the development partner of choice for Solomon Islands.
Ties between Australia and Solomon Islands soured after the Pacific island nation struck a security pact with China in April. The agreement raised concern for the US and Australia, who have for decades seen the Pacific region as largely their sphere of influence.
“Solomon Islands will not do anything that will undermine our national security and jeopardise the security of any or all (Pacific Island) forum countries,” the ABC reported Sogavare as saying at the start of the meeting.
“I reiterate again that Solomon Islands will never be used for foreign military installations or institutions of foreign countries because this will not be in the interest of Solomon Islands and its people.”
A joint statement issued by Albanese’s office after the meeting said the two leaders discussed bilateral ties, the climate crisis, and “shared aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and resilient Pacific”.
The ABC reported Sogavare thanked Albanese for a “kind offer” to fund the country’s next elections, which were due to be held in 2023 but which Sogavare has delayed to 2024 due to Solomon Islands hosting the Pacific Games next year.
That was a change in tone from last month, when Sogavare criticised the offer of election funding as “interference”.
The bilateral meeting came days after US president Joe Biden and 14 Pacific island states issued a joint declaration to strengthen their partnership amid Washington’s offer of hundreds of millions in new aid for the region.
Solomon Islands endorsed the document after earlier indicating it would not sign the declaration.