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New Proposal Would Allow China To Send Troops To South Pacific Island To Keep ‘Social Order’

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BEIJING, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 03: Chinese soldiers march past Tiananmen Square before a military parade on September 3, 2015 in Beijing, China. China is marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and its role in defeating Japan with a new national holiday and a military parade in Beijing.
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China and the Solomon Islands have written up a security pact that has Western security experts concerned as it would allow China to send troops and naval ships to the Solomons at the “request” of the South Pacific nation. 

The Solomon Islands are located northeast of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean.

A copy of the security pact draft, which the Australian government verified, was leaked on Thursday and gives a framework for the Solomon Islands to ask for Chinese military and police support for a variety of reasons. 

The draft details that the Solomons can “request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces” to the island for the purpose of “maintaining social order, protecting people’s lives and property, providing humanitarian assistance” and other agreed upon needs. 

The talks between the two nations come just months after violent anti-China protests in the Solomons as rioters voiced their opposition to perceived moves by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to politically and economically tie the islands to China. 

Additionally, the proposed agreement also stipulates that China, if the Solomons consent, can “make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in and have stopover and transition in the Solomon Islands.” 

Once China has agreed to come to the aid of the South Pacific nation, the Solomon Islands must “provide all necessary facilities and assistance” which includes “border entry of personnel and weaponry, intelligence and information support, logistical support, and legal status and judicial immunity of the relevant personnel.” 

Furthermore, the draft details that “relevant expenses” will be determined through “friendly consultation” between the countries that vary drastically in size. China, which has a population of about 1.4 billion, easily dwarfs the Solomons, which has fewer than 700,000 residents. 

“We would be concerned by any actions that destabilize the security of our region,” stated Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs. “Members of the Pacific family are best placed to respond to situations affecting Pacific regional security.”

Though not yet signed, the draft proposal has Western security experts concerned. 

“This is deeply problematic for the United States and a real cause of concern for our allies and partners,” said Charles Edel, who holds the inaugural Australia chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies according to The New York Times.

He added that it should be a concern for both Australia and New Zealand, key U.S. allies in the region. 

“The establishment of a base in the Solomon Islands by a strategic adversary would significantly degrade Australia and New Zealand’s security, increase the chances of local corruption and heighten the chances of resource exploitation,” Edel stated. 

According to The Times, if signed, China could cut off trade between the U.S. and Australia if the Solomon Islands were to call in support for China and its navy for some reason. 

Many in the Solomons are also concerned about the country deepening its relationship with China. Back in November, three people were killed in Chinatown in Honiara, the Solomons’ capital during anti-China riots.

Rioters even targeted the home of Prime Minister Sogavare, who has faced political opposition from those who accuse him of trying to cozy up to China. 

“The crux of it is that this is all about political survival for the prime minister,” Matthew Wale, who serves in parliament as chief of the opposition party. “It has nothing to do with the national security of Solomon Islands.”

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