Australia and Solomon Islands discuss 'mutual security'

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during a bilateral meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris (not pictured) in Tokyo on September 27, 2022. Photo by LEAH MILLIS / POOL / AFP

Sydney, Australia -- Australia hosted the Solomon Islands' Prime Minister on Thursday in a bid to smooth diplomatic tensions strained by China's growing footprint in the Pacific.

Solomon Islands -- a sprawling archipelago in the South Pacific -- is the unlikely epicentre of a major diplomatic tussle in which the United States and Australia are seeking to limit China's influence.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare did not appear before media after the meeting, but released a joint statement highlighting their "mutual security commitments" in the region.

"Prime Minister Sogavare and Prime Minister Albanese reaffirmed mutual security commitments, and the Pacific family first approach to regional peace and security," the joint statement read.

They discussed "priorities and challenges, including the existential threat of the climate crisis, and shared aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and resilient Pacific", it said.

Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 2019 and signed a security pact with Beijing in April.

Both Australian and United States officials feared the pact could lead to a strengthened Chinese military presence in the Pacific.

The relationship between Australia and Solomon Islands has been strained in recent months.

Australia in September offered to help Solomon Islands fund its upcoming national elections.

Sogavare initially described Australia's public offer of financing as an "assault on our parliamentary democracy" but later accepted it.

Solomon Islands has been sensitive to criticism of its ties to China.

Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said earlier this week he was "not comfortable" with indirect references to China in a draft US-Pacific partnership declaration.

Sogavare told the United Nations in September his country had been "vilified" for its relationship with Beijing.

© Agence France-Presse

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