A leaked document has revealed that China and the Solomon Islands are close to signing a security agreement that could open the door to Chinese troops and naval warships flowing into a Pacific Island nation that played a pivotal role in World War II.
The agreement, kept secret until now, was shared online Thursday night by opponents of the deal and verified as legitimate by the Australian government. Though it is marked as a draft and cites a need for “social order” as a justification for sending Chinese forces, it has set off alarms throughout the Pacific, where concerns about China’s intentions have been growing for years.
“The establishment of a base in the Solomon Islands by a strategic adversary would significantly degrade Australia and New Zealand’s security, increase the chances of local corruption and heighten the chances of resource exploitation.”
It is not clear which side initiated the agreement, but if signed, the deal would give Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands the ability to call on China for protection of his own government while granting China a base of operations between the United States and Australia that could be used to block shipping traffic across the South Pacific.
Five months ago, protesters unhappy with Beijing’s secretive influence attacked the prime minister’s residence, burned businesses in the capital’s Chinatown and left three people dead. Now the worst-case scenario some Solomon Islanders envision would be a breakdown of democracy before or during next year’s election, with more unrest and the threat of China moving in to maintain the status quo.
The leaked document states that “Solomon Islands may, according to its own needs, request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces to Solomon Islands to assist in maintaining social order, protecting people’s lives and property.”