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Solomons PM due in Australia amid China tension

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will host his Solomon Islands counterpart Manasseh Sogavare against a backdrop of accusations China has influenced the Pacific island nation.

Mr Sogavare will land in Australia and meet with Mr Albanese and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles over the coming days.

It comes as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says Beijing is attempting to influence public discussion in the Solomons through propaganda and suppressing information.

The institute says Chinese Communist Party officials are attempting to silence and coerce critics and media in Pacific Island nations.

“Across the Pacific, there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that Chinese diplomats exert pressure to influence local publications and control press releases,” its new report reads.

The report also referenced Beijing pushing a “fabricated narrative” accusing Australia, the United States and Taiwan of instigating riots in Honiara during November 2021.

It comes amid heightened tensions between Honiara and Canberra after Mr Sogavare accused Australia of foreign interference for offering to help fund the island’s election.

The prime minister also mocked Australia’s offer in parliament.

Allegations of Chinese slush funds influencing politicians in the Solomon Islands have also been levelled.

Honiara inked a security pact with Beijing in April, raising concerns about China’s growing influence in the region.

It also moved to strip any China references from a US-led accord with Pacific Island nations.

“There were some references that put us in a position where we’ll have to choose sides,” Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele told reporters in Wellington on Tuesday.

“We did not want to be placed in a position where we have to choose sides.”

Other Pacific Island nations like Micronesia and Fiji have also raised concerns about the pact, saying any security agreement should have regional consensus.

The Australian government maintains it is the Solomon Islands’ “security partner of choice” and security should remain within the remit of the region.

– AAP



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