Sat, 10 Dec 2022

The Solomon Islands foreign minister said Tuesday that his nation had objected to the first draft of a US-Pacific partnership declaration because the Pacific territory was "not comfortable" with some indirect references to China.

Jeremiah Manele, Foreign Minister of the Solomons, a territory bordering France's New Caledonia, was quizzed by reporters in New Zealand about his country's reported qualms over the joint statement, signed in Washington last week.

"In the initial draft there were some references that we were not comfortable with," the foreign minister said.

These "put us in a position that we have to choose sides and we don't want to be placed in a position that we have to choose sides," Manele explained.

Asked if those references were to China, he replied: "Indirectly."

Manele said the United States and 14 Pacific islands meeting in Washington had found "common ground" in negotiations, allowing the Solomon Islands to sign the final declaration.

The United States has been the key player in the South Pacific since the end of World War II.

But in recent years China has asserted itself strongly through investment, police training and, most controversially, a security pact with Solomon Islands.

China expands military might as far as French borders with Solomon Islands pact

Countering Beijing's growing clout in the region, US President Joe Biden last week announced 800 million euros in funding for the Pacific islands, and signed the joint declaration with them pledging a closer US-Pacific partnership.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told AFP in Washington at the time that the negotiations had addressed his concerns "in a positive way".

Manele, speaking in Wellington after meeting with his New Zealand counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta, said both China and the United States were welcome in the Pacific.

The foreign minister reiterated the Solomons' position that its security pact with Beijing, signed in April, would not lead to China establishing a military presence in the archipelago.

"The Indo-Pacific . . . should not be seen as a region of confrontation, of conflict, of war," Manele said.

"There is no provision for a military base in that agreement. We welcome the US re-engagement with the Pacific and we look forward to working with all our partners."

(With AFP)

Originally published on RFI

More Wellington News

Access More

Sign up for Wellington News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!