China eyeing Solomon Islands deep water port
Chinese government company can build a military base
Concerns over China’s growing influence in the South Pacific
Canberra. A Chinese state-run company is in talks to buy a deepwater port and a World War II airstrip forest area in the Solomon Islands. Talks in this regard are taking place amid concerns that China wants to establish a naval base in the South Pacific country. The Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) said on Monday that a delegation from China Forestry Group Corp had visited the forest area that covers most of Colombangar Island in 2019. He said that the said delegation had asked questions about the length of the ghat and the depth of the water, showing little interest in the trees.
According to ABC, the board of Colombangara Forest Products Ltd (KFPL) in May warned the newly elected Australian government of “risk or strategic threats” to Australia from such sales. Taiwan and Australia are shareholders on this board. ABC said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wrote a counter-letter to the board last week, saying it was “not interfering.” Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s office said Australia is in contact with KFPL on a possible sale. “Australian High Commissioner to Honiara Lachlan Strahan is in regular contact with the management of KFPL and will continue to do so,” Wong’s office said in a statement.
The board wanted the Australian government to offer
“We value our position as the Solomon Islands’ first security and development partner, and we remain committed to working together to address our shared challenges,” the statement said. KFPL President Matthew English said in a statement that he “cannot comment on any business matter in connection with KFPL”. A KFPL official said on condition of anonymity that the board wanted the Australian government to make an offer or facilitate an offer from an Australian company.
Chinese military presence feared
The US and its allies are concerned about China’s growing influence in the South Pacific after China and Solomon signed a bilateral security agreement this year. This threatens a Chinese military presence less than 2,000 kilometers from the north-east coast of Australia. Australia already has a security pact with Solomons and Australian police have been maintaining peace in the capital, Honiara, since riots late last year. Solomon Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware said that China will never be allowed to establish a military base in the country.
FIRST PUBLISHED : August 01, 2022, 17:43 IST