Australia accuses China of ‘intimidation’ attempt
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has condemned China’s efforts to “intimidate” Australia with its recently announced draft security agreement with the Solomon Islands, which was leaked last week.
The suggested deal, which emerged on social media last Thursday, shows a proposed framework between China and the Solomon Islands, which would allow Beijing to deploy military troops to the Pacific nation to “protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects.”
“We are engaged because we are not blind to the tactics of other people who are going through the process of trying to restrict our capacity of movement and intimidate us,” Joyce declared, adding that “the prime minister, the national security community, they are not fools.”
Citing China’s expansionist activity in the region, Joyce stated that it was evidence of why Australia has to ramp up its military strength and economic resilience to “become as strong as possible, as quickly as possible.” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern waded into the debate about the possible militarization of the Pacific, claiming that there is “very little reason in terms of the Pacific security for such a need and such a presence.” She described the potential presence of China’s military in the Solomon Islands “as gravely concerning.”
Australia’s High Commissioner Lachlan Strahan stated on Monday that the country’s government has “raised its concerns” directly with the Solomon Islands “about the proposed Solomons-China security cooperation agreement.” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to speak to his counterparts in Papua New Guinea and Fiji about the Solomons-China deal on Monday, having called it “an issue of concern for the region.”
The Solomon Islands’ opposition leader has rebuffed criticism from Australia, claiming he’d warned Canberra last year that China was negotiating a military pact, which could lead to Beijing’s troops being based on the Pacific island nation. However, despite raising the proposed agreement with Australia, Solomon Islands politician Matthew Wale said he was “extremely disappointed” at the lack of action from Australia.