China, Solomon Islands sign policing pact in upgrade of ties


Beijing (Reuters) – China and the Solomon Islands on Monday signed a deal on police cooperation as part of upgrading their relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”, four years after the Pacific nation switched ties from Taiwan to China.

The police cooperation pact was among nine deals signed after Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Beijing, underlining his nation’s foreign policy shift to seek opportunities beyond the region

Sogavare arrived in China on Sunday for his first visit since the two countries struck a security pact last year, to the alarm of the United States and neighbours including Australia.

“In just four years, the relationship between China and the Solomon Islands has developed rapidly, and we can now say that it is very fruitful,” Li told Sogavare.

Sogavare, in turn, thanked China for its role in addressing global challenges including peace and sustainable development. He added that his country had “a lot to learn” from China’s experience.

When Sogavare came to power in 2019, he switched the nation’s diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing, which claims the democratically governed island as part of its territory.

Last month, Sogavare called for a review of a 2017 security treaty with Australia in a meeting with the Australian defence minister.

Australia has historically provided policing support to the Solomon Islands, including the rapid deployment of police in 2021 to quell riots, although China has increased its police training there.

Sogavare also met Chinese President Xi Jinping and the two agreed to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership, according to Chinese state television.

“China and Pacific island countries are both developing countries and should strengthen mutual assistance within the framework of South-South cooperation,” Xi said in his meeting with Sogavare.

China has long supported so-called South-South cooperation, which refers to cooperation between developing nations as equals for mutual benefit.

Describing the two countries as “trustworthy friends and reliable brothers”, Xi said China-Solomon Islands ties have set a “good example of solidarity and cooperation” between countries of different sizes and between developing nations.

China supports more of its firms investing in Solomon Islands and will continue to provide economic and technical assistance “without political strings attached”, Xi told Sogavare.

He also pledged support for a 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, referring to a grand blueprint agreed among Pacific nations on advancing the region’s strategic goals over the next three decades.

In a statement, Sogavare’s office highlighted “quality infrastructure” as an area that the country needs for economic empowerment to eradicate poverty.

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is already building a cellular network in the island nation, financed by a $66 million Chinese EXIM bank loan that has prompted concern by a parliamentary committee about the debt burden. A Chinese state company will also redevelop the port in the capital Honiara.

The two countries also reached agreements in areas including civil aviation, trade, economy, technology and sports.

Sogavare will be in China until Saturday and officially open his country’s embassy in Beijing

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