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Australia makes peace with Solomons

Australia is now more convinced than before that there will be no Chinese military bases in the Solomon Islands.

This comes after Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with her Solomons Islands counterpart Jeremiah Manele in Brisbane over the weekend, making it the first ministerial level talks between the two nations after the China security deal.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the meeting reinforced Australia’s role in the region.

It is believed that the meeting between the two foreign affairs ministers took place to clarify matters and assumptions that had built up after the China Solomon Islands security pact was signed.

Australia still remains the biggest aid donor to the Solomon Islands.

“It also reassured, once again, that the Solomon Islands are not considering or would not support the establishment of a naval presence,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Perth on Saturday.

“There was the opportunity for a meeting to take place here, and that was a sensible opportunity to take up.”

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne talking to people. Picture: Twitter

Australia’s first attempt to persuade the Solomon Islands not to pen the deal with China was unsuccessful and even after the deal was made there were no talks between the two governments at ministerial level.

Things took a turn for the worst when last week, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare asked Australia and other aid donors to stop referring to small island nations as their backyard.

Senator Payne confirmed to media in Australia that the meeting occurred as Manele travelled through Brisbane on Friday.

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It is believed she expressed concern about the lack of transparency around the pact.

“Australia has been consistent and clear in stating our respect for Solomon Islands’ sovereign decision-making,” she said.

“We agreed that Australia remains the Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice.”

Senator Payne said Solomon Islands would not house a foreign military base.

Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs Minister Jeremiah Manele. Picture: PINA

The minister also declined to say whether New Zealand should make a bigger effort in the Pacific to counter Chinese aggression.

Australia’s Trade Minister Dan Tehan told Weekend Breakfast the meeting had been “very productive”, saying the ministers agreed Australia remained Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice.

“I think what we need to do is make sure we just focus on what is very important for the Solomon Islands — ultimately their sovereignty — but that Australia remains the security partner of choice,” he said.

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