Solomon Islands security deal with China 'very concerning' if genuine - NZ Foreign Minister

NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta (left) and Chinese president Xi Jinping (right).
NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta (left) and Chinese president Xi Jinping (right). Photo credit: Getty Images


A security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands would be "very concerning" if genuine, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta says.

The Australian government has been expressing concern after a leaked draft of the agreement was published online by an advisor to the Malaita Provincial Government Premier Daniel Suidani.

It would allow China to deploy forces to protect Chinese personnel and major projects in the Islands, and make ship visits.

Australian trade minister Dan Tehan told the ABC the government was worried it could undermine the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands, and was "deeply concerning".

In a statement this afternoon, Mahuta said New Zealand's High Commissioner in Honiara would be raising concerns with the Solomons government, "and we will also be raising our concerns directly with China," she said.

"If genuine, this agreement would be very concerning. Such agreements will always be the right of any sovereign country to enter into, however developments within this purported agreement could destabilise the current institutions and arrangements that have long underpinned the Pacific region's security. This would not benefit New Zealand or our Pacific neighbours," she said.

Mahuta said Aotearoa and the Solomon Islands were long-standing partners including on security, and New Zealand maintained an active police and defence force presence there.

"We encourage all partners in the Pacific to be transparent with their actions and intentions, and encourage assistance to be targeted in a manner that enables inclusive and sustainable development and supports regional stability."

Pacific regional cooperation on security issues was enshrined in the Pacific Islands Forum's Biketawa Declaration, she said, and New Zealand strongly supported it.

"We will continue to work closely with all partners to advance the best interests of the Pacific region and New Zealand is focused on supporting long-term resilience outcomes in the Pacific, in line with Pacific priorities."

The ABC reported it had verified the document as genuine, but it was a draft and believed to not have been formally signed by both governments.

It was also unclear whether the document was what would be presented to the Solomon Islands' Cabinet.

Australia yesterday confirmed its Solomons International Assistance Force would remain in the country until the end of next year.

Massey University's Centre for Defence and Security senior lecturer Dr Anna Powles told RNZ Pacific the document raised serious questions.