China says Australia must stay away from confrontation over Solomon Islands

China has called on Australia to refrain from confrontation in the Pacific region in the wake of a trip by an Australian minister to the Solomon Islands aimed at discouraging officials there from signing a security pact with Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday that Australia should not instigate confrontation and respect the sovereignty of China and the Solomon Islands.

“The relevant countries should look upon and respect China and the Solomon Islands sovereignty and their own choices with an objective and rational attitude and not instigate confrontation in the (Pacific) islands region and create division, and do more that would benefit regional peace, stability and development.”

The spokesman said the security cooperation with the Islands was not to the detriment of any third party in the region. “Cooperation between China and the Solomon islands is not directed at any third party and does not conflict with any cooperation between the Solomon Islands and other countries, but is making a meaningful contribution to the current regional cooperative framework.”

On Wednesday, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja arrived in Honiara for two days of talks with officials.

A draft security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, which was revealed last month, has sparked agitated reactions from Western countries, which say Beijing aims to cement its footing in the region by building a military base on the islands.

The Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare says his government has “no intention whatsoever… to ask China to build a military base” in the country.

Situated in Oceania, the Solomon Islands was engulfed in unrest and riots in November 2021. It is among the latest countries to have cut ties with Chinese Taipei in favor of Beijing. China said late last year that it would send police advisers and riot gear to the Solomon Islands.

The People’s Republic of China has sovereignty over Taipei, and under the ‘One China’ policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. The United States, too, recognizes the Chinese sovereignty but has long courted Taipei in an attempt to unnerve Beijing.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have grown increasingly tense in recent years, with the world’s two largest economies clashing over a host of issues, including trade, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, military activities in the South China Sea as well as the origins of the new coronavirus.

China is also against a new trilateral security alliance announced by Australia, the United States, and Britain, which is aimed at addressing defense and security concerns in the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing has advised the three countries to shake off their ‘Cold War’ mentality.

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