Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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China, Solomon Islands ink police cooperation deal

BEIJING, CHINA — China and Solomon Islands signed a new deal on police cooperation Monday, deepening their bilateral partnership four years after the Pacific island nation cut ties with Taiwan and formally established relations with Beijing.

The “implementation plan” on policing — effective through 2025 — was one of nine documents signed on Monday following talks between visiting Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Chinese Premier Li Qiang at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Li said that the development of China-Solomon Islands relations over the past four years had been “very fruitful”.

The Solomons’ decision to switch its diplomatic recognition to Beijing was “the correct choice that conforms to the trend of the times”, he added.

Sogavare, in turn, told Li that his country “has a lot to learn from China’s development experience”.

Also signed between the two countries was an agreement on a “Sports Technical Assistance Project” for this year’s Pacific Games in Solomons capital Honiara, for which Beijing is building the host stadium.

Sogavare is expected to be in China until Saturday, and is officially opening his country’s Beijing embassy as well as visiting the economic powerhouse provinces of Jiangsu and Guangdong.

In 2019, China and the Solomons officially established diplomatic relations after Beijing persuaded the poor Pacific nation to sever ties with self-ruled Taiwan, whose territory China claims.

Mounting geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States, meanwhile, has brought the two powers to loggerheads in the region.

Their jockeying for influence has been a boon to Pacific governments, with aid, loans and construction project windfalls flowing into their coffers to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Instead of taking sides between Washington and Beijing, most are welcoming all comers and the new diplomatic and economic capital they bring.

“It is not in the interest of our people and country to take sides and align ourselves with interests that are not our interests,” Prime Minister Sogavare said at an independence anniversary event on Saturday.

In the face of its rivalry with China, Washington in February reopened its mission in the Solomon Islands after a 30-year hiatus.

China has also won influence, striking a secretive security deal with the Solomons that allows Beijing’s forces to deploy on the islands.

Sogavare’s visit will likely fuel concerns that the Solomon Islands is drifting closer into China’s orbit.

Just months after signing the security deal, Sogavare told AFP that he had asked for a “review” of a long-standing defence pact with Australia while insisting he was not seeking to downgrade relations with Canberra.


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