June 23, 2024

China assists Solomon Islands in policing, Cybersecurity, denies threat to pacific peace

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The Solomon Islands has addressed concerns raised by Australia and other nations regarding its policing agreement with Beijing, asserting that it poses no threat to regional peace. The Solomon Islands stated that China’s involvement would enhance the capabilities of its 1,500 police officers in areas such as cybersecurity and community policing.

However, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the opposition party in the Solomon Islands have called for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to disclose details of the policing deal, fearing potential regional competition.

In response to these concerns, Prime Minister Sogavare’s office released a statement on Friday emphasizing that the Pacific nation is expanding its security partnerships. The statement highlighted that the Chinese police support will complement the existing policing assistance from Australia and New Zealand, emphasizing the importance of diverse knowledge and expertise. Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed her country’s views on Pacific security during a meeting with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Jakarta.

The statement from Sogavare’s office also defended the policing deal, stating that improvements to the traffic control and management system in Honiara, provision of police equipment, and the completion of the Forensic Autopsy Lab do not pose a threat to peace and security in the Pacific region. The statement also mentioned the riots that occurred in the capital city of Honiara in 2021, exposing gaps in the country’s policing capabilities. In response to the unrest, Australian and New Zealand police were deployed to the Solomon Islands at the request of Prime Minister Sogavare, and they previously led a decade-long international security force to maintain peace after an internal conflict.

The issue at hand, according to Meg Keen, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands program, is not China’s provision of security equipment but rather the compatibility between Chinese and Pacific policing methods. Keen emphasized the importance of responsible use of equipment, particularly firearms and water cannons.

During Prime Minister Sogavare’s recent visit to Beijing, his first since agreeing to a security pact with China last year, he pledged support for China’s Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative policies. These initiatives combine Chinese infrastructure investment with security measures. The Solomon Islands, with a population of 700,000 spread across a strategic Pacific archipelago, played a pivotal role in World War II as part of the US effort to liberate the Philippines. Concerns have been raised in Washington and Canberra about China’s naval ambitions in the region, particularly in light of tensions surrounding Taiwan. Opposition leader Matthew Wale expressed his apprehension, stating, “Our fear is that in the near future, China’s interest will clash with US influence and strategic interests in the region, and we are right in the middle of it all.”

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