Beijing Eyes New Ports, Fishing Facilities in Solomon Islands, Leaked Documents Reveal

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Writer
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.
May 9, 2022 Updated: May 9, 2022

Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce has promised to open the door for new wharves, shipbuilding, fishing facilities, and clean energy development in the Solomon Islands, according to a recently leaked document, hinting at the possibility that a contentious security deal could open the door for the militarization of the region.

The latest revelations come after an earlier agreement emerged involving a Beijing state-owned aviation company reaching out to the leader of the Pacific nation’s Isabel Province about potential locations to develop naval infrastructure for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.

The newest document to be unearthed—this time by The Australian newspaper—is a draft memorandum of understanding on deepening “blue economy” cooperation (pdf) between Beijing and the Solomon Islands under China’s Maritime Silk Road project.

The memorandum will see both parties work towards a “win-win” partnership and “deepen cooperation” in the blue economy and green technologies.

Epoch Times Photo
Australia’s Armidale Class Patrol Boat, HMAS Armidale, patrols the coast of Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Dec. 4, 2021. (CPL Brodie Cross/ADF)

Both countries will try to encourage business investment in a range of fields such as industrial fishing, marine technology, tourism, renewable energy (wind power, tidal power), offshore oil drilling, as well as the building of ports, submarine cables, and shipbuilding.

The agreement comes as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues ramping up infrastructure development in the Solomon Islands.

Last week, the CCP and Solomons signed off on the construction of a new medical centre in the Pacific nation’s largest hospital, the National Referral Hospital in the capital Honiara.

Meanwhile, concerns continue to mount after the official signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands that would allow Beijing to dispatch police, troops, weapons, and even naval ships—with the consent of the island nation—to supposedly “protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands,” according to a leaked draft of the document.

The emergence of the security pact has sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity from democratic allies, including visits from the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell and, more recently, a meeting between Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her Solomons counterpart, Jeremiah Manele, in Brisbane on May 6.

“We have reiterated our deep concerns about the security agreement with China, including the lack of transparency,” she said in a statement. “I again welcomed Prime Minister [Manasseh] Sogavare’s assurance that the Solomon Islands will not be used for a foreign military base.”

Yet, in early April, a leaked letter from the Avic International Project Engineering Co. emerged revealing the Beijing-based company was actively looking for locations to develop naval infrastructure in the country.

Epoch Times Photo
In this handout provided by the Australian Department of Defence, Commander of Joint Task Group 637.3, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Frankel (L), and Private Thomas Rixon watch the Armidale Class Patrol Boat, HMAS Armidale, sail into the Port of Honiara, in Guadalcanal Island, Solomon Islands, on Dec. 1, 2021. (CPL Brandon Grey/Australian Department of Defence via Getty Images)

This comes as the CCP has been scrutinised for its adherence to the military-civil fusion doctrine, which allows the party to repurpose existing civilian technologies and developments for military use.

The issue came to prominence when it emerged that thousands of Chinese professors working in universities in Western countries were actually linked to the People’s Liberation Army and using the know-how and research they had gained to bolster the development of the CCP military arm.

Anne-Marie Brady, a China expert based at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, has accused the regime in Beijing of “repeatedly” trying to gain access to militarily significant airfields and ports in the South Pacific.

“China provides weapons, military vehicles and vessels, uniforms, training, and military buildings” to the armed forces of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, and now the Solomon Islands,” Brady wrote on Twitter.

“PLA Yuanwang space-tracking vessels deploy to the Pacific during missile and satellite launches, using [French Polynesia’s capital] Papeete and [Fiji’s capital] Suva as their base ports. China is using its Pacific embassies as sites for Beidou ground stations. Like GPS, it is military technology, crucial for missile targeting.”

Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.