China says it has officially signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands.
The deal has raised concerns among observers in Australia, the United States and other countries. They are concerned about China’s growing influence in the South Pacific Ocean area.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin spoke to reporters about the agreement Thursday in Beijing. He said the agreement was recently signed by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Wang said the purpose of the agreement is to “promote social stability and long-term peace and security” in the Solomon Islands. He said it would not target any third party.
An early version, or draft, of the agreement appeared on social media in late March. At the time, the Solomon Islands confirmed it was negotiating a deal with the Chinese government in Beijing. The draft included a provision that could permit China to send armed police and soldiers to the Solomon Islands. It would also let China base its navy ships off the coast of the islands.
The draft agreement led to concerns in Australia and the U.S. that China would establish a military base in the Solomon Islands. The island group is less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia.
Zed Seselja is Australia’s minister for the Pacific. He traveled to the Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara, to ask Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare not to sign the agreement.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang dismissed the concerns about the security deal in his announcement Tuesday. He accused the U.S. and Australia of "deliberately” increasing tension. He added that such efforts would fail.
Prime Minister Sogavare has said the agreement will not include the establishment of a Chinese military base.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is sending a delegation to Honiara this week to discuss the agreement. The delegation will also discuss reopening a U.S. embassy there. The group is being led by Kurt Campbell, the White House Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink.
The Associated Press reports that the U.S. delegation also plans to visit Fiji and Papua New Guinea on the trip.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this VOA News story for VOA Learning English with additional materials from The Associated Press.
Words in This Story
promote –n. to help (something) happen, develop, or increase
provision –n. something that is done in advance to prepare for something else
deliberately –adv. in a way that is meant, intended, or planned
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