Australia urged to increase Pacific security funding to counter China

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“We are going to have to rethink the way we maintain a defense presence in the region and that should also force us to revisit what has until now been a view of Defense that we should not seek to base naval assets or We can do a lot more, but not within a defense budget of 2.1% of GDP.

Director of the National Security College at the Australian National University, Rory Medcalf, said the confirmation of the deal was alarming. “Australian security agencies have been right to worry about China’s security ambitions in the Pacific for years now.”

Chinese students expelled

China’s foreign ministry said any effort to undermine cooperation between Beijing and Pacific island countries was “doomed to failure”. Beijing also raised concerns with the Morrison government this week over two Chinese students who were allegedly expelled from Australia for failing to disclose their mandatory military training at university.

Meanwhile, Australian journalist Cheng Lei is due to stand trial in Beijing on Thursday on espionage charges that have further stoked tensions between China and Australia. State media said on Tuesday that Australian diplomats would not have access to the trial.

The Solomons deal is shaping up to be the biggest sticking point in Australia-China relations, which have soured over the past three years.

Mr Sogavare hinted that a deal with Beijing was needed after the Australian-led Solomon Islands International Assistance Force, deployed after anti-government riots broke out in November, refused to defend Chinese-funded infrastructure projects.

“Such an attitude makes us uncomfortable,” Mr. Sogavare said.

“We’d just be dumb, sitting ducks if we didn’t do anything to protect the infrastructure donated by our friends.”

We would simply be dumb, sitting ducks if we did nothing to protect the infrastructure gifted by our friends.

— Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare

Mr Sogavare’s speech in parliament came as China’s ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian downplayed the threat to Pacific security from a Chinese military presence.

“I don’t know about the so-called Chinese base on the island. I only heard it in the media,” he said.

“The discussion is still ongoing between China and the Solomon Islands. But I want to highlight the cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands which are two sovereign states. Our role is conducive to regional peace and tranquility.

While Mr Xiao said China wants to have a constructive relationship with Australia, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s message to Beijing was different. “Any attempt to disrupt and undermine the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Pacific island countries is doomed to fail,” a spokesperson said Monday evening (AEST).

Nations alarmed

Details of the leaked draft security agreement have alarmed Australia, New Zealand and the United States over the potential for Chinese warships and submarines to operate deep in the South Pacific, smother shipping lanes and threaten Australia.

The Australian Financial Review France, which has Pacific territories in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, and Great Britain, which maintains ties with Pacific countries through the Commonwealth, are also affected by the agreement, as well as the Japan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday about the deal, following conversations with the leaders of Fiji and Papua New Guinea on Monday.

Mr Sogavare revealed he texted Mr Morrison and wrote him a letter.

While expressing his gratitude to Australia and New Zealand, Mr Sogavare said the security threats facing the Solomon Islands, including climate change, have compelled Honiara to seek out a wider circle of partners.

But he said his country had not relinquished its sovereignty and that Chinese police and military would only be allowed to enter the country at the invitation of the Solomon Islands.

“We have no intention, Mr. President, of engaging in a geopolitical power struggle,” Mr. Sogavare said.

“We are under no pressure from our new friends and there is no intention of asking China to build a military base in the Solomon Islands.”

During last year’s riots, parts of Honiara’s Chinatown were set on fire and Pacific Games infrastructure was also targeted.

Chinese state media said on Tuesday that Beijing had lodged a complaint with Canberra over the expulsion of two Chinese students after they arrived in Sydney.

the China Dailyspokesperson for the Communist Party, published an article on his social network account on Monday evening who said a Chinese student had recently been expelled from Australia for “covering up so-called military training”. The student visa was canceled on the spot.

The report says another student was deported last month after Australian Border Force officers found photos of his college military training on his phone. Military training for Chinese university students is compulsory. The Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Ms Cheng, who worked as a TV presenter for state broadcaster CGTN, will appear in Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court at 9 a.m. on Thursday after 19 months in detention. Mr. Xiao declined to go into details about his case.

But he said: “The fundamental rights of this individual will be protected in accordance with our laws and regulations. Whether it is open or not will be decided depending on the nature of the case.

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