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Solomon Islands, China announce strategic partnership

Leaders of the Solomon Islands and China have promised to expand relations, signing agreements on police, economic and technical co-operation.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare met Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang in Beijing on Monday.

Sogavare and Li presided over the signing of the agreements, which included an implementation plan for police co-operation through 2025.

"We are here to further boost relations," Sogavare told Li following a ceremony at which a Chinese military band played the Solomon Islands national anthem.

Sogavare also met Chinese President Xi Jinping and the two agreed to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership, according to Chinese state television.

"China and Pacific island countries are both developing countries and should strengthen mutual assistance within the framework of South-South co-operation," Xi said in his meeting with Sogavare.

China has long supported so-called South-South co-operation, which refers to co-operation between developing countries as equals for mutual benefit.

Describing the two countries as "trustworthy friends and reliable brothers," Xi said China-Solomon Islands ties have set a "good example of solidarity and co-operation" between countries of different sizes and between developing countries.

China supports more of its firms investing in Solomon Islands and will continue to provide economic and technical assistance "without political strings attached," Xi told Sogavare.

The country, 2000 kilometres northeast of Australia, has been China's biggest success in a campaign to expand its presence in the South Pacific.

Sogavare's government switched official recognition in 2019 to Beijing from Taiwan, the self-ruled island democracy claimed by the mainland's ruling Communist Party as part of its territory.

"Solomon Islands, sir, has a lot to learn from China's development experience," Sogavare told Li. He welcomed an opportunity for dialogue to enhance "bilateral interaction and co-operation".

The two governments "have decided to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership of mutual respect and common development," Li said.

"The relationship between China and the Solomon Islands has developed rapidly, and we can now say that it is very fruitful."

The Solomon Islands signed a secretive security agreement with Beijing last year that might have allowed Chinese military forces in the South Pacific.

However, Sogavare rejected suggestions his government might give Beijing a military foothold in the region.

The nearby island nation of Kiribati also switched official relations to Beijing in 2019.

China's foreign ministry said last week Sogavare's visit would "inject new momentum" into relations and "deepen mutual political trust".

China's efforts to develop closer relations with other Pacific governments have largely failed.

The Biden administration has responded by announcing plans to reopen an US embassy in the Solomon Islands.

Biden convened a summit of Pacific Island leaders in September to unveil a strategy that included climate change, maritime security and preventing overfishing.

Biden promised $US810 million ($A1.2 billion) in new aid for Pacific Island nations over the next decade, including $US130 million ($A195 million) to address the effects of climate change.

Australian Associated Press


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