Scott Morrison says building a Chinese military base in Solomon Islands would be a “red line” for Australia and the United States, but did not say how Australia would react if it did.
- Mr Morrison says Australia will not have Chinese naval bases “on our doorstep”
- Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says Solomon Islands is risking its sovereignty by signing security agreement with China
- Labor Penny Wong has almost confirmed further spending on foreign aid in the Pacific if the party is elected
There are concerns about the recently signed security agreement between China and Solomon Islands and what this could mean for Australia and other Pacific countries, especially if China uses the agreement to expand its military presence in the region.
“It’s a matter of common concern, not just Australia, it’s about Australia and regional governments, especially places like Fiji and Papua New Guinea,” Morrison said.
“In cooperation with our partners in New Zealand and, of course, in the United States, I share the same red line as the United States on these issues.
“We will not have Chinese naval bases in our region at our fingertips.”
Mr Morrison would not say how he would react if he were re-elected if the “red line” was crossed and China decided to set up a military base.
Instead, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare assured him it would not happen.
“So they clearly share our red line,” Mr. Morrison said.
The government faced persistent criticism from the opposition over the agreement, with Labor claiming that the coalition should have done more to prevent it, including sending Foreign Minister Marisa Payne to the Solomon Islands when concerns about the pact first emerged last year.
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows to volume. Penny Wong reiterated her criticism of Morrison’s actions in the Pacific.
The Prime Minister and senior Labor campaigns led Alice Springs with their candidates for the Lingiari chair.
Shadow Secretary of State Penny Wong almost confirmed that if Labor were elected, it would increase foreign aid spending in the Pacific to secure the region.
She said there were a number of things Labor would do differently to prevent the pact if it were in government.
“We would not reduce foreign and development aid, which is important for development and national security. We would not reduce bilateral aid by an average of 28 percent each year,” said Senator Wong.
“We wouldn’t make fun of the Pacific Islands for the water flowing at their doors, as Peter Dutton did when he stood next to Scott Morrison.
“And we would not pull our noses over Pacific leaders when they told us at the forum that climate change is their number one national security issue.
“So yes, I think there’s a different approach. I think it’s easy? No, I don’t know, and that’s why it shouldn’t be the subject of penetrating intimidation campaigns.”
Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said yesterday that he believed the government’s foreign aid cuts were partly to blame for the ongoing controversial agreement, “by being a credible partner on climate change and having a credible climate change policy.”
Foreign aid spending has fallen by a third in the last decade, but Australia remains the largest donor in the Pacific, with $ 1.7 billion a year allocated to the region.
Solomon Islands receives about $ 170 million of this, but their share has fallen since the end of RAMSI – Australia’s multi-annual assistance mission to the nation.
Solomon’s sovereignty is at stake, says Joyce
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce also warned the Solomon Islands that they had jeopardized their sovereignty by signing a security agreement with China.
Mr Joyce said he had taken the word of Solomon Islands that it would not allow China to set up a naval base on the island, but if it did, it would be an “obviously intimidating tactic” for Australia.
“[China wants] on. There is no doubt about that, because we see what they did in the South China Sea, where they said they were not going to militarize, “he said.
“Of course for the Solomons, I take their word for it, but I say be really careful to invite a totalitarian power to your country, because it will affect your sovereignty.”
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows to volume. Tracking time: 1 minute 30 seconds 1 m 30 s Barnaby Joyce says that the Solomon Islands should watch out for invitations in a totalitarian regime.
Mr Joyce again defended the Prime Minister and the government’s attempts to negotiate with the Solomon Islands leadership before signing the agreement.
But he would also not say how Australia would react if China began to build a military base because the country said it would not.
Asked what the re-elected Liberal and National Coalition would do to prevent China from penetrating the Pacific, the Deputy Prime Minister pointed to projects such as the Nuclear Submarine Agreement, AUKUS, the Quad alliance between Australia, India, Japan and the United States – as examples of things which the government did to prevent this.
The government faced persistent criticism from the opposition over the agreement, with Labor claiming that the coalition should have done more to prevent it, including sending Foreign Minister Maris Payne to the Solomon Islands when concerns about the pact first emerged last year.
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