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Australian Foreign Minister Wong to travel to Solomon Islands over concerns over China’s security pact

Children fish on the beach in downtown Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, on September 14, 2012. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

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SYDNEY, June 15 (Reuters) – Australia’s foreign minister will travel to the Solomon Islands on Friday to meet with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware amid concerns over the regional impact of a security deal between the Pacific nation and China.

Foreign Secretary Penny Wong said in a press release that she will travel to the Solomon Islands and New Zealand on her third visit to the Pacific since being sworn in last month. read more

The statement said that Australia is committed to deepening cooperation with the Solomon Islands on common issues, including climate change, and Wong will meet with Sogaware.

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“I look forward to discussing how we can continue to make progress on post-pandemic recovery, prioritizing economic development and labor mobility, and addressing our shared security interests,” she said.

The Solomon Islands Security Pact, as well as China’s proposal for a comprehensive security and trade agreement with 10 Pacific island nations, will be discussed at a meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders next month in Suva, several island nations said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Sogaware in Honiara last month as part of an eight-country tour of the Pacific region, agreeing to deepen cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands on fisheries, mining, infrastructure and trade.

Wang said the security agreement with the Solomon Islands would improve policing and protect Chinese citizens and institutions.

“China supports the Pacific island countries in strengthening security cooperation and working together to resolve regional security issues,” he said during the visit. read more

Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States have said they are concerned that Beijing may establish a military presence in the Pacific, although Sogaware denied that the pact allows for a military base.

Fiji said at a security conference in Singapore over the weekend that climate change is the biggest security issue for the Pacific Islands.

In New Zealand, Wong will discuss regional security and climate change with his colleague. “New Zealand is an indispensable partner in our quest to create a stronger Pacific family,” she said.

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Reporting by Kirsty Needham. Editing by Jerry Doyle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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