Solomons says foreign base would make it a military target

SOLOMON Islands will not host a foreign military base because the nation would be targeted for “military strikes”, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said Thursday, as Pacific leaders grappled with China’s security ambitions.

The Solomons leader is attending the Pacific Islands Forum summit, the first gathering of the bloc since his country signed a security agreement with China — details of which have not been made public.

China’s security pact with the Solomons sparked concern in the Pacific region that it may lead to Beijing setting up a permanent military presence on the island, despite both countries denying such a plan.

Establishing a foreign military base in Solomon Islands would make the country “an enemy” of the Pacific, Sogavare told broadcaster RNZ Pacific.

A base would “also put our country and our people as targets for potential military strikes and Solomon Islands government will never allow our country and people to become military targets,” he said.

The Solomon Islands leader made similar assurances when he met with Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for the first time Wednesday.

Sogavare embraced Albanese on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum, telling the Australian leader: “I need a hug”.

Security and the China-US rivalry in the Pacific have loomed large over this week’s leaders’ meeting, with the United States announcing a major diplomatic push into the region with extra cash and new embassies. — AFP