CANBERRA (CU)_Over the past few weeks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been critical of the security pact that was recently signed between Beijing and Honiara, which prompted concerns over a potential Chinese military base in the South Pacific. Now the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare has taken his turn in lashing out at Canberra, at a time when diplomatic ties in the region are put under the microscope.
The Solomons Prime Minister not only claimed that Australia blindsiding him over the announcement of the AUKUS security pact, but also accused the country of refusing to protect Chinese-built infrastructure in the country during last year’s riots. “I learnt of the AUKUS treaty in the media, Mr Speaker,” he said in his address to parliament. “One would expect that as a member of the Pacific family, Solomon Islands and members of the Pacific should have been consulted to ensure this AUKUS treaty is transparent since it will affect the Pacific family by allowing nuclear submarines in Pacific waters.”
He went on to acknowledge that as a sovereign country, Australia can enter into any treaty it wants to, and then said “I’m glad that Australia, the United States and Japan respected our sovereignty to enter into this security agreement with China as well.”
Responding to his remarks, PM Morrison said he spoke with his counterpart in the Pacific archipelago the day after the announcement regarding the AUKUS agreement with the UK and the US, adding that “no issues were raised at that time in that discussion”. “But obviously, as time goes on and new relationships are entered into, there’s obviously been some… other influences in the perspective taken by the Solomon Islands prime minister,” PM Morrison said.
When inquired if PM Sogavare was parroting China’s rhetoric, the Australian leader said “there’s a remarkable similarity”. On the matter of Canberra’s response to last year’s riots in Honiara, PM Morrison defended the actions of the Australian Defence Force and Australian Federal Police personnel who were sent to the Solomon Islands at the time of unrest. “We were the first call when those things occurred in December and we would be so again,” he said. “And it’s our AFP that are on the ground there right now, preserving that peace, which was restored.”