Security Agreement Continues to Aggravate after Persuasion in the Pacific Failed

Two weeks after the signing of a pact beyond Australia’s Coral-sea, the waves continue to lap at the feet of Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and his colleagues.

The finalisation of a security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands on April 19th has not only drawn concern from Australia, New Zealand, and the US, but home-grown condemnation for Australia’s coalition, accused by their political opponents of not doing enough to stop it.

A week prior to the agreement, the government’s minister for the Pacific, Zed Seselja had travelled to the island chain’s capital attempting to change the mind of Maneesh Sogavare, the Solomon Island’s PM. One trip in vain later, Australian Labor party foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong was far from sympathetic.

“On Scott Morrison’s watch, our region has become less secure, and the risks Australia faces have become much greater,” were her exact words on ABC’s AM radio. Wong’s concern is shared by many across Oceania and beyond.

Days after the agreement, a senior-level U.S delegation travelled to the Solomon Islands, warning that Washington would ‘act accordingly’ to any permanent Chinese military presence in the region. Clearly some feathers have been ruffled.

Signed on the back of demonstrations and violent riots on the island chain, the security pact is largely believed to be centred on crowd management. Sogavare has said that the deal is necessary to address the nation’s “internal security situation”. Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign ministry has confirmed to the BBC that the final agreement includes provisions on “maintaining social order”.

Yet, beyond hints at new controversial sunbathers in the south-pacific, the deal itself has been largely in the shade. Signed in secret, with little being disclosed of the exact contents, what it fully entails are yet to be realised.

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Hamish Davis

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May 2022
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