China to visit Solomon Islands amid fears Beijing is seeking greater influence in Pacific region | World News


China’s foreign minister is visiting the Solomon Islands this week amid Western fears that Beijing is seeking greater influence in the Pacific.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit the island nation on Thursday, becoming the highest-ranking Chinese official to do so since diplomatic relations were formalised between the two countries two-and-a-half years ago.

Mr Wang will address a 20-person delegation and is expected to sign a controversial security deal struck between China and the Solomon Islands that was leaked in March.

If agreed, it would allow China to send in police and military personnel to “assist in maintaining social order” and let its warships stop on the islands for “logistical replenishment”.

This has led to major fears the Chinese could be planning to set up a military base on the island, which is of huge strategic importance in the Pacific region.

The concerns have been further fuelled after an announcement by China’s foreign ministry that Mr Wang will follow his trip to the Solomon Islands with others to Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

He will also host a meeting of all Pacific Island foreign ministers while in Fiji.

‘Quad’ countries meeting to limit Chinese influence

It comes after US President Joe Biden met with leaders of the ‘Quad’ group – Japan, Australia and India.

The summit was aimed at limiting Beijing’s economic and military in the region, where Australia and New Zealand dominate and tensions run high over the issue of Taiwan.

Mr Biden met with newly elected Australian PM Anthony Albanese.

His administration has pledged to set up a Pacific defence school that would train nearby armies to counter a potential Chinese military presence on the Solomon Islands.

Read more: Australia and New Zealand’s ‘major concerns’ over security deal

However the Solomon Islands government has insisted that its partnership with China will not come at the expense of its ties with Australia, the US and others.

“Prime Minister Sogavare looks forward to a productive engagement with PRC (the People’s Republic of China) as an important development partner at a very critical time in our history,” a statement said.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson added: “It is believed that the meeting will play an important role in promoting solidarity and cooperation between China and the Pacific Island countries and in advancing the development of our relations.”


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