China “has no intention” of building a military base in the Solomon Islands, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Thursday, dismissing speculation about the purpose of its recent security pact with the island state.
The Chinese minister, who was in Honiara at the start of a long tour of the Pacific island states, said the security deal signed by Beijing last month with the Solomon Islands government is “overboard, honestly and integrity”.
A draft of the security deal leaked – the final version was not made public, it contained a provision that would allow Chinese naval deployments in the island nation, which is less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia.
“It is not imposed on anyone, nor is it targeted at third parties. There is no intention of establishing a military base,” Wang said in a press conference after meeting with Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele. .
The former Australian government, leading the May 21 elections, said that any move to create a Chinese military base would be tantamount to crossing a “red line”, without specifying the consequences.
But Mr. Wang retorted, “China’s cooperation with Pacific island countries does not target any country and should not be interfered or interrupted by any other country.”
He also took a look at previous Australian governments that have described the Pacific islands as the country’s “backyard”.
“I’m not anyone’s backyard. All Pacific island countries have the right to make their own choice instead of just being followers of others,” the foreign minister said through a translator.
“Any defamation and attack on normal security cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands is not above the scoreboard and any such disruption will go nowhere.”
Mr. Wang appeared to be extending an olive branch to other Pacific powers, however, stating that China respected existing international relations with Pacific island countries and would explore joining three-way partnerships with them.
The security pact helps the Solomon Islands government to safeguard long-term stability and security, he said, “in light of the Solomon Islands’ needs and demands to carry out security law enforcement and cooperation activities.”
It also involves “capacity building” for the police force, the Chinese minister said.
Last November, protests against Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s government led to riots in the capital Honiara, during which much of the city’s Chinatown was set on fire.
The riots “have seriously threatened the life and property of the Chinese community in this country,” Wang said.
China sent riot gear and an “ad hoc police advisory group” at Honiara’s request, he said, as well as sealing the security deal.
It aimed to strengthen the capacity of the Solomon Islands’ law enforcement agencies and safeguard their security, he said, and “at the same time, protect Chinese citizens and institutions more effectively.”