Solomon Islands expands security partnerships, welcomes Chinese assistance in policing, cybersecurity
The Solomon Islands government has responded to concerns raised by Australia and other countries regarding its policing deal with China. The nation has dismissed claims that the agreement poses a threat to regional peace in the Pacific and has instead emphasized that China’s involvement will strengthen its police force in areas such as cybersecurity and community policing.
In response to calls from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the opposition party in the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s office released a statement on Friday. It stated that the Pacific island nation is expanding its security partnerships and that the addition of Chinese police support will complement the existing assistance from Australia and New Zealand. The statement further emphasized that no single country has a monopoly on knowledge.
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, conveyed Australia’s concerns about regional security during a meeting with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in Jakarta on Thursday night. The Solomon Islands government, however, fails to see how the improvement of its police force’s traffic control and management system, the provision of police equipment, or the completion of the Forensic Autopsy Lab would threaten peace and security in the Pacific region, as mentioned in the statement from Sogavare’s office.
The statement highlighted that the riots that occurred in the capital city of Honiara in 2021 revealed deficiencies in the islands’ policing. As a response to the unrest, Australian and New Zealand police were deployed at the request of Prime Minister Sogavare. They had previously led an international security force for a decade to maintain peace after an internal conflict.
In the week leading up to his visit to China, Prime Minister Sogavare announced that the security treaty with Australia would be reviewed. Opposition leader Matthew Wale expressed concerns about the differences between policing in democracies and communist countries, emphasizing the importance of upholding human rights and due process.
According to Meg Keen, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands program, the issue at hand is not China’s provision of security equipment but rather the compatibility between Chinese and Pacific policing methods. Keen emphasized the critical importance of how equipment, such as guns and water cannons, is used.
During his recent visit to Beijing, Sogavare, who had previously agreed on a security pact with China last year, pledged support for China’s Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative policies. These policies aim to combine Chinese infrastructure investment with security measures.
The Solomon Islands, with a population of 700,000 spread across a strategic Pacific archipelago, played a pivotal role in the US military’s westward movement to liberate the Philippines during World War II. Tensions surrounding Taiwan have raised concerns in Washington and Canberra about China’s naval ambitions in the region. Opposition leader Wale added that there is a fear that China’s interests will clash with US influence and strategic interests in the region, with the Solomon Islands finding itself caught in the middle.
As the Solomon Islands continues to expand its security partnerships, the implications of the Chinese involvement in policing and cybersecurity remain a subject of scrutiny. The government’s emphasis on broadening its capabilities while maintaining compatibility with existing democratic values and human rights will shape the outcome of this arrangement.