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Chinese Military Presence in Solomon Islands Will Affect Australia's Ops, Warns General

© AP Photo / Australia Defense Department, Gregory Pierce, HO / (File) Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets
(File) Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.03.2022
The Solomon Islands said on Thursday that its officials had “initialled” elements of the security cooperation agreement with China, despite reservations expressed by its regional partners such as Australia and New Zealand. It also said that the final agreement would be signed between the two foreign ministers in the coming days.
One of Australia's top generals has warned that the possibility of Chinese warships being stationed on the Solomon Islands will affect the “day-to-day operations” of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) both by air and sea.

"It does change the calculus if Chinese navy vessels are operating from the Solomon Islands," Lieutenant-General Greg Bilton, the Defence Force's Chief of Joint Operations, said on Thursday while addressing a press conference at the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) in Canberra.

Bilton noted that the Sino-Solomon security pact could result in Chinese vessels being positioned “much closer” to the Australian mainland than they are at present.
The Solomon Islands are around 2,000 kilometres from Australia’s state of Queensland, in the country's North-East.

"We would change our patrolling patterns and our maritime awareness activities," the General underlined.

He went on to say it would be “unusual” for both Australian and Chinese security personnel to be training in the Solomon Islands.
Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (not pictured) during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on October 9, 2019. (Photo by Parker Song / POOL / AFP) - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.03.2022
'Red Line': Aussie Commentator Calls For Solomon Islands to Be Invaded Over Security Deal With China
The proposed “security cooperation” pact between Beijing and Honiara is designed so that the police and armed forces of the two countries can work together to “protect” the safety of Chinese personnel and projects in the Pacific nation.
The draft agreement, which was leaked last week, also states that Chinese vessels could carry out “logistical replenishments”, “stopovers” and “transition” in the Solomon Islands.
Australia, New Zealand and the US have all expressed concerns over the new security pact, which several analysts have said would be tantamount to Beijing gaining a “base” in the archipelago.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reckoned that the agreement would lead to “potential militarisation” of the region and Australia's Defence Minister Peter Dutton said that the military agreement makes him “very concerned”.
But Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, told the country’s Parliament on 29 March (Tuesday) that the backlash against the pact was “very insulting” to his government.

“We are not pressured in any way by our new friends and there is no intention whatsoever to ask China to build a military base in the Solomon Islands,” he said. He, however, refused to give any further details about the pact during his speech to parliament.

Sogavare also said that the security treaty didn’t pose a “threat” to any country, as he went on to laud the infrastructure projects funded by Beijing since the nation switched allegiance from Taiwan to China in 2019.
The Prime Minister also revealed that the Solomon Islands’ previous treaty and security cooperation arrangements with Canberra would remain “in place” and that he “won’t pick sides” in the ongoing geopolitical competition between the US-led western allies such as Australia and China.
The US and its western partners, including Australia, have been involved in a stiff geopolitical competition for influence among the Pacific Island nations.
Washington is at present in the process of growing US military facilities in the Pacific region to counter Beijing’s rising influence, as announced during the Global Posture Review by the Pentagon last year.
America has funding agreements, or Compacts of Free Association (COFA), with Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
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