Solomon Islands Fires Back at Australia for Criticising Security Deal With China
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands accused Australia of hypocrisy on Friday, saying that Canberra should have been more transparent with other Pacific nations when signing the AUKUS pact before criticising the new Honiara-Beijing security deal of secrecy.
Last week, China and the Solomon Islands signed a framework agreement on security cooperation. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the construction of a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands will be a "red line" for Canberra and Washington.
"One would expect that as a member of the Pacific family, Solomon Islands and members of the Pacific should have been consulted to ensure this AUKUS treaty is transparent since it will affect the Pacific family by allowing nuclear submarines in Pacific waters," Manasseh Sogavare told parliament, as quoted by Australian broadcaster ABC News.
Sogavare said he had learned about Australia's security pact with the United Kingdom and the United States from media.
"Oh, but Mr Speaker, I realise that Australia is a sovereign country which can enter into any treaty it wants to, transparently or not. Which is exactly what they did with AUKUS," Sogavare said in an apparent mocking of Morrison's tone.
He also criticised the "gaps" in a bilateral 2017 Honiara-Canberra security treaty. He said that when Australia sent troops to the Solomon Islands at its request to appease riots last year, they refused to protect Chinese infrastructure and investments. Sogavare said the Australian government's refusal to admit this was "disappointing".
Australia, the US and the UK announced a new trilateral defence partnership last September. Australia prioritised it over a $66 billion contract with France for 12 conventionally powered military submarines, as AUKUS partners promised it technology to develop its own nuclear-powered submarines.
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