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High level Chinese delegation to arrive

There will be more stirrings in the region regarding the Solomon Islands China deal, as the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to be in the island nation in the next few days.

This is the trip that will cement the security deal and an agreement called the Blue Economy Memorandum of Understanding between the two nations.

The lead up to the visit has been interesting. It started when Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele, and Minister for Police, National Security and Correctional Services, Anthony Veke, met with Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna, in Suva over the weekend.

Now the Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, has told media in Australia that China’s rise should not be seen as a threat to Australia. The nature of relations between countries is not determined by their respective size or strength, but the policies they adopt towards each other.

While in Suva, Mr Manele told Mr Puna that that security arrangements undertaken by Solomon Islands will not undermine regional security and stability.

Solomon Islands Minister for National Security Anthony Veke (L), PIF general secretary Henry Puna (C) and Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs Jeremiah Manele (R) at the Forum. Picture: PIF

He said all bilateral security agreements Solomon Islands has entered into are driven by state to state relations and not externally imposed on Solomon Islands.

He said the Solomon Islands remains supportive of regional security frameworks including the 1997 Aitutaki Declaration, 2000 Biketawa Declaration and the 2018 Boe Declaration.

On Wednesday, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare shrugged off criticism on maritime investment it is alleged to have made with China, describing it as a normal bilateral development initiative.

Chinese ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian (R). Picture: Twitter

“There is nothing sinister nor trivial about the Blue Economy Memorandum of Understanding,” his office said in a statement.

He said the memorandum of understanding was a broad document, which would be followed by a more detailed agreement.

The statement came after a supposed copy of the agreement was leaked to the media.

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In Australia, the Chinese ambassador said a big and strong country that pursues a friendly policy can definitely become a friendly and powerful partner.

“As China grows, it has always been committed to friendly co-operation with countries around the world, including Australia,” Mr Xiao said.

Xiao said mutual respect was needed between the two countries, including for the different cultures and political systems.

Rennell Island, which a tribal leader fears could become a target. Picture: UNESCO

“China and Australia can absolutely get along with each other harmoniously,” he said.

“It is our belief that the common interests between China and Australia far outweigh our differences, and we have every reason to become partners of mutual benefit.

“We expect the Australian side to view China and China’s policies in an objective and rational light, act in the interests of Australia and its people, adopt a positive policy toward China, and work with China in the same direction with mutual respect as the political foundation, so as to push China-Australia relations back on the right track at an early date.”

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