What China said to concerns it is building a military base in the South Pacific

The Solomon Islands has great strategic significance, as was evident during WW II, when it served as a bulwark for Australia against the advancing Japanese.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a press conference in Honiara on May 26, 2022. - China has "no intention at all" to build a military base in Solomon Islands, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on May 26, following speculation about the purpose of a recent security pact with Honiara. (Photo by AFP)(AFP)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a press conference in Honiara on May 26, 2022. - China has "no intention at all" to build a military base in Solomon Islands, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on May 26, following speculation about the purpose of a recent security pact with Honiara. (Photo by AFP)(AFP)
Updated on May 26, 2022 06:03 PM IST
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China has 'no intention' of building a military base in the Solomon Islands, foreign minister Wang Yi said Thursday, dismissing speculation over the purpose of a recent security pact with the Pacific island state. The Chinese minister made the remark after he landed in Solomon Islands capital Honiara to start an eight-nation tour that has raised concerns about Beijing's rapidly expanding military and economic ambitions in the in the South Pacific region.

Last month China said it had signed a wide-ranging security pact with the Solomon Islands, an agreement many fear could give Beijing a military foothold in the South Pacific. A leaked draft of the deal released earlier was red-flagged over provisions allowing Beijing to deploy naval assets and armed police, as well as 'legal and judicial immunity' for Chinese personnel.

The final version of the agreement has not been made public.

"It is not imposed on anyone, nor is it targeted at any third party. There is no intention at all to establish a military base," Wang told reporters today after meeting with the Solomon Islands' foreign minister, Jeremiah Manele.

READ: China’s foreign minister starts Pacific tour in the Solomon Islands

Worried western powers see the pact as a potentially major shift in local geopolitics since it gives China direct access to the South Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand.

The Solomon Islands has great strategic significance, as was evident during WW II, when it served as a bulwark for Australia against the advancing Japanese.

Finally, the Solomon Islands also sits on critical shipping routes, meaning China could potentially control maritime traffic in and around the region.

READ: China signs pact with Solomon Islands. How is India affected?

Wang countered such fears, saying: "China's cooperation with Pacific Island countries does not target any country and should not be interfered or disrupted by any other country."

He also appeared to extend an olive branch to other Pacific powers, saying China respected international relationships Pacific island nations have with others and would explore joining three-way partnerships in some cases.

With input from AFP

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