Sevinç İrem BALCI
Beijing’s long-term participation in the South Pacific is reflected in a bilateral security cooperation pact, which was signed in April. The Chinese government has boosted its diplomatic relationship with the area twice since President Xi Jinping took office. The agreement has not been made public since Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare referred it to the Solomon Islands Parliament as a “treaty.” However, it is believed to be similar to a version released from the Solomon Islands government in late March. Cooperation on humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and attempts to maintain social order, among other things, are all part of the agreement. The pact has far-reaching repercussions, particularly for China, the Solomon Islands, Australia, and the United States.
The Pacific Island countries are dispersed across a vast ocean and are usually regarded as strategically important. Despite this, the United States and other major countries only pay attention to the region on a sporadic basis. Beijing’s involvement in the area has increased, and it is critical to comprehend the nature of that involvement and its repercussions.
The result of the signing of the pact was devastating for Canberra. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Pacific Minister Zed Seselja both branded the pact “very unsatisfactory” and expressed worry about the lack of openness with which it was negotiated. “Our regularly expressed position, particularly from the standpoint of Australia’s national interests,” they wrote in a joint statement, “remains that the Pacific family is best situated to handle the security demands of the area.” The “biggest failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific” in 80 years, according to Australia’s Labor Party.
Since the US has made a pact with Australia and United Kingdom in September 2021, she was also concerned about China’s movement in the Indo-Pacific region. Besides that, US has also focused on new strategies in Asia-Pacific, and Indo-Pacific, challenging Beijing into a rivalry. US has also established a economic program for the region, and according to recently leaked internal emails, officials at the US foreign assistance agency were alarmed by reports of a disputed security deal between China and the Solomon Islands, calling the accord as “extremely worrying” and “unfortunate”, as published in Al Jazeera.
The Pacific Island area is an essential part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to the Chinese government. It sees the region, in particular, as a vital air freight center on its so-called Air Silk Road, which connects Asia with Central and South America. By 2021, China would have inked BRI cooperation papers with each of the 10 Pacific Island countries with whom it maintains diplomatic ties.
The security pact between China and the Solomon Islands is likely motivated by the Chinese government’s perception of regional vulnerability rather than a Chinese grand plan. Civil upheaval in other countries targeting China-funded projects, along with China’s deteriorating ties with the US and its regional allies, is likely to have prompted Chinese leaders to explore ways to safeguard Beijing’s abroad interests.
It should be also remembered that in November 2021, the Australian government dispatched members from its defence forces to Honiara to assist control violent rioting that erupted when protestors stormed parliament in an attempt to depose Mr Sogavare.
To conclude, the developments in the Solomon Islands has drawn the attention of the Southern neighbors in the Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Besides that, the US has also closely interested in that region; thus, there was considerable developments for her as well in the Islands.