China – Solomon Islands Security Deal

China Solomon Islands Security Deal

China’s new security agreement with the Solomon Islands has sparked controversy and garnered attention far beyond the relatively remote Southwest Pacific. The controversial new security deal between the Solomon Islands and China has become a prism through which all other components of Pacific geopolitics, indeed the geopolitics of the greater Indo-Pacific, will now be refracted.

A draft of the deal, leaked on social media on March 24, 2022 set off an immediate firestorm. A chorus of pleas came from domestic and international quarters alike, requesting the Solomon Islands’ government, headed by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, step back from the deal. Instead, Sogavare fiercely rejected all criticism and expressions of « grave concerns » and on March 31, China and the Solomon Islands began formalizing the agreement. Now Sogavare’s troubled nation and the Indo-Pacific region must grapple with the extensive consequences of this game-changing development. The new security agreement has far-reaching domestic and geopolitical implications. The two contexts are now dangerously interwoven, with the greater geopolitical contest between China on the one side and Taiwan, the United States, Australia, and other allies on the other mapped onto long-standing and increasingly precarious domestic tensions. These tensions have regularly erupted into conflict throughout the 44 years since the Solomon Islands gained its independence from Britain in 1978.

In April, China’s foreign ministry confirmed that Beijing had signed a minimum five-year security agreement with the Solomon Islands. The deal, which Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare described as a ‘treaty’ to the Solomon Islands Parliament, has not been made public. But it is thought to be close to a version leaked from within the Solomon Islands government in late March. The implications of the agreement are far-reaching, most importantly for China, the Solomon Islands, Australia and the United States.