Australia Pledges to Help Solomons Develop Security Force

Australia continues to increase funding toward the Pacific nation amid security concerns about the CCP regime’s influence in the region. 
Australia Pledges to Help Solomons Develop Security Force
Deputy PM Richard Marles speaks to the media in Tasmania, Australia, on May 3, 2023. (Steve Bell/Getty Images)

The Australian government is hoping to continue building ties with the Solomon Islands government, pledging $50 million (US33.35 million) to establish a new border management system and improve health infrastructure.

The move is part of the government’s effort to strengthen its ties with the new Solomons government amid security concerns stemming from Beijing’s influence in the region.

The funding announcement was made during Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles’s visit to the Solomon Islands’ capital city Honiara to meet the country’s newly elected prime minister, Jeremiah Manele, for the first time.

On May 21, the defence minister’s package included $3 million to help digitise the Solomon Island border management from 2025, making it easier to collect revenue, track who is entering and leaving the country, and introduce new visa classes.

In addition, the other $45 million will go towards supporting the Naha birthing clinic—the Pacific nation’s first birthing centre, which opened in January 2023. Australia will also provide medical equipment and staff training.

The Australian government is “very optimistic” about the future of the partnership with the Manele government, Mr. Marles said.

“We also make clear that we are right now the most significant development assistance provider, the most significant economic partner and the most significant supporter of Solomon Islands security,” he told reporters in Honiara on May 21.

Australia Ready to Help Solomon Islands Build Defence Force

Mr. Marles also noted that the Australian police would maintain their presence in the Solomons and they have been “making a really significant contribution” to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

He added that the Solomon government is going through a security review and Australia would “watch that with great interest.”

Solomon Island became the first regional nation to sign a major policing pact with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2022 under former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

The pact would grant permission for the CCP navy to dock and replenish in the Solomons, which caused alarm in Australia and the United States due to concerns about Beijing potentially having a permanent military presence in the South Pacific.

The former PM was also accused of using funds donated by the communist regime to survive a no-confidence vote following the riot in 2021.

New Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele previously maintained close ties with the CCP, saying the security pact would continue.

In a statement, Mr. Manele noted that Australia remained the Solomon Islands’ partner of choice, and he wanted to see the bilateral relationship “grow to new heights” during his tenure as prime minister.

Mr. Manele added that his nation was ready to discuss a “much, much larger bilateral co-operation” with Canberra.

In turn, Defence Minister Marles said Australia stands ready to help the Solomon Islands build a defence force “if the Solomons wish to walk down that path.”

“From Australia’s point of view, wherever Solomon Islands wants to go in relation to this, we stand ready to help. We’re there to help establish a defence force if that’s what Solomon Islands wants to do.

Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at [email protected].
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