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Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

NZ Foreign Minister blames ‘relationship failure’ for ‘unwelcome and unnecessary’ deal

(CU)_The secret security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands sent shockwaves across the globe, particularly among diplomatic partners in the Pacific. Now the question on everyone’s mind is how did this agreement come about?

In August last year, chatter surfaced that Beijing and Honiara were negotiating a security deal which would allow the Chinese Communist Party to send police and military personnel to the Pacific islands and base naval vessels there. The Solomon Islands’ opposition leader Matthew Wale says he first learned about the proposed agreement in mid-2021 through a trusted source. However, according to him, the deal was being secretly negotiated by a Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavar’s tight circle, while everyone else was left in the dark. This is why Pacific nations and other countries across the globe were caught off guard when the draft security agreement was leaked online in March. It set off alarm bells in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, all of which fear the agreement would allow the setting up of a Chinese military base in their neighbourhood.

In Australia, there has been a debate about when the government was first made aware of the agreement, with Wale stating he warned Canberra regarding nascent security negotiations last year, but this has not been the case in New Zealand. According to Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand’s first knowledge of the deal was when the draft document was leaked online in March. “In terms of the detail of any security agreement, it would be fair to say that probably very few of the Pacific nations, New Zealand included, will have been aware of the detail of those discussions – or, in fact, how far those discussions had progressed to something material,” she told the Guardian in an interview this week.

The Kiwi Foreign Minister went on to condemn the deal as “unwelcome and unnecessary”, reiterating her comments in March that it “could destabilise the current institutions and arrangements that have long underpinned the Pacific region’s security”. When inquired if the shock leak represented an intelligence failure for her country and neighbour ng Australia, Mahuta said: “I would say that this is a relationship failure.” “That’s why it’s so important for the Solomons to provide a level of transparency – to ensure that we can elevate the conversations around the impact of those arrangements around regional security and regional sovereignty to the Pacific Islands Forum,” she added.

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