Solomon Islands wanted ‘indirect’ Chinese references removed from US-led Pacific partnership deal

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On Tuesday, Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said that they will not sign the United States government’s Pacific partnership deal until “indirect” references to China are annexed from the agreement. The declaration would strengthen Washington’s ties with at least 14 Pacific nations and include provisions for increased cooperation on maritime security, climate change and economic development.

This comes after the country had initially refused to sign the agreement and the recent remarks were the first time the Solomon Islands publicly acknowledged the concerns it had with the draft of the agreement. “There were some references that put us in a position where we’ll have to choose sides, and we did not want to be placed in a position where we have to choose sides,” said Manele to reporters in New Zealand’s Wellington. 

As per reports, the final draft of the pact had a small section on security with broad language that did not particularly mention China, but specifically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, when the foreign minister was asked during the press conference if the text was referring to Beijing he responded by saying “indirectly.”

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He also went on to say that the initial draft had some references that they were “not comfortable with” however after further negotiations and discussions the officials were able to “find common ground”. The foreign minister of the Solomon Islands is currently on a visit to New Zealand where he met with his counterpart Nanaia Mahuta, in Wellington. 

While it was unclear as to which section of the draft was the point of concern for the island nation, a report by The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news said that a provision which read that the nations “consult with one another closely on security decisions with regional impacts” later was removed from the final draft of the declaration. 

On the other hand, a report released on Wednesday, by a think tank in Australia alleges that the Chinese Communist Party has tried to attempt to undermine the Pacific island nation’s relations with the US and Australia. They have done this by spreading false narratives through local media and the use of social media channels in the Solomon Islands, said the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, reported the Associated Press. 

(With inputs from agencies)

 

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