Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Thursday assured his Australian counterpart that his country will not allow any foreign military installation.
Sogavare arrived on an official visit to Canberra for bilateral talks where he was welcomed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
“Prime minister, 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,” ABC News quoted Sogavare as saying during his meeting with Albanese.
Solomon Islands signed a security deal with China in April, sparking criticism from Washington and its allies Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Washington claimed that China is aiming to set up a military base there.
Beijing and Solomon Islands have dismissed claims by the US and its allies.
China insists that the deal “does not target any third country,” asserting that Pacific Island nations are sovereign states that “are not anyone’s backyard.”
In April, Sogavare said the objections raised by the US and its allies were “insulting,” stressing that his government plans to honor existing security arrangements with Australia and other regional partners.
“Solomon Islands will not do anything that will undermine our national security, and jeopardize the security of any or all (Pacific Island) forum countries,” Sogavare told his Australian counterpart.
“My government’s legacy is to safeguard the future of Solomon Islands and its people, not endanger the country and its citizens or the security of any forum country,” he added.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Albanese said that as proud Pacific nations, Australia and Solomon Islands have a deep and enduring history underpinned by strong people-to-people links and shared democratic values.
Sogavare also welcomed Australia’s $16.68 million commitment to support the 2023 Pacific Games, and offer to support the next elections in Solomon Islands.
Last month, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong revealed that her government had recently made an “offer of assistance” to the Solomon Islands in order to help the country hold general elections next year.
However, the Solomon Islands government sharply reacted to her statement and called it “an assault on our parliamentary democracy and a direct interference by a foreign government into our domestic affairs.”
Later, the country’s parliament postponed the elections until 2024.