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Solomon Islands Says Won’t Allow China To Build Military Base

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Honiara: The Solomon Islands clarified on Friday that it won’t allow any foreign country to build military bases in the country following the speculations that were raised after the signing of security cooperation with China.

“Government is conscious of the security ramification of hosting a military base, and it will not be careless to allow such initiative to take place under its watch,” a government statement said, adding that, “contrary to the misinformation promoted by anti-government commentators” the (security) agreement did not invite China to establish a military base in the country, The Diplomat reported.

The government statement emphatically ruled out the possibility of a Chinese base after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare earlier told parliament that it had no intention of asking China to build a base.

Sogavare said his nation sought only peace and prosperity, citing its foreign policy mantra: “We are friends to all and enemies to none.” He said it wasn’t a secret deal but a sovereign issue.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on security cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands was signed on March 18. It allowed China to send police, Armed Police, military personnel and other law enforcement forces to the Solomon Islands, on request, to assist in maintaining social order and accomplish other tasks agreed upon by both countries, according to media reports.

Under the provisions of the MoU, Chinese naval vessels can carry out logistical replenishments and Chinese armed forces can be moved to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands government said on Thursday that only a draft agreement of the new security pact had been initialled by representatives from the Solomons and China and that the agreement would be “cleaned up”.

According to the report, Article 5 of the MoU stipulates that the nature of cooperation agreed upon cannot be disclosed to a “third party” without the consent of both parties.

Earlier, in 2019, the Solomon Islands switched its diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing. The country already has had a bilateral security agreement with Australia since 2017.

The signing of a security partnership with Beijing has caused concerns in Canberra, as it views the development as part of an attempt by Beijing to set up a military base in the region.

Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands is also negotiating several other MoUs with China including on Civil Aviation Services and Expanding Trade under Non-Reciprocal Trading Arrangement, the report said.

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