Washington [US]: Officials from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand on Tuesday (local time) expressed concerns about a proposed security framework between the Solomon Islands and China and its “serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
As per a White House statement, National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink have convened a meeting in Honolulu with US Navy Adm. John C Aquilino, Commander, US Indo-Pacific Command and senior officials from Australia, Japan, and New Zealand on developments in the Pacific Islands on April 18.
“In Honolulu, the officials reaffirmed the four countries’ enduring and shared commitment to the Pacific Islands,” a White House statement said.
According to the statement, the US resolved to intensify its engagement in the region to meet 21st-century challenges, from maritime security and economic development to the climate crisis and COVID-19.
“We will do this in ever-closer partnership with Pacific Island nations, including through a united Pacific Islands Forum; and together with like-minded countries, within and beyond the region, including in Europe,” the statement read further.
“Officials from the four countries represented also shared concerns about a proposed security framework between the Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it added.
The meeting was part of regular and extensive US consultations with allies and partners on the Indo-Pacific and is part of the announced senior administration travel this week to Hawaii, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
China and Solomon Islands on Tuesday (Beijing time) signed a framework agreement on security cooperation that neighbours of the South Pacific archipelago fear could open the door to a Chinese naval base in the country.
Speaking at a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the two countries had formally signed a framework pact on security cooperation.
Australia said China has intentions to build a naval base in the Solomon Islands to intimidate the continent.
Last week, the United States expressed concern over the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, saying this agreement will open the door for the deployment of Chinese military forces to the Pacific nation.
“We believe that signing such an agreement could actually increase destabilisation within the Solomon Islands and could set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific Island region,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told a press briefing. (ANI)