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The security pact allows China to send police and military personnel to the Solomon Islands “to assist in maintaining social order,” while also opening the door for Chinese warships to stop in port there for “logistical replenishment” — giving rise to worries of a possible Chinese naval base on the doorstep of Australia and New Zealand.

But in his address to Parliament on Wednesday, Manasseh Sogavare defended the security agreement as being directed entirely to “our internal security situation”.

A file photo shows Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare review an honour guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2019. (AP)

“I ask all our neighbours, friends and partners to respect the sovereign interest of Solomon Islands on the assurance that the decision will not adversely impact or undermine the peace and harmony of our region,” he told parliament.

A draft of the agreement leaked online last month, and China’s Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday that it had been signed “the other day”.

Mr Sogavare was equally vague, telling lawmakers it had been signed “a few days ago”.

Australia had urged the Solomon Islands not to sign the pact, and sent Pacific Minister Zed Seselja for talks with Mr Sogavare last week.

Two top American officials — Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator, and Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs — are to visit the country this week for talks.

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FILE – Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, left, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. (AP)

Mr Sogavare has said his government would not let China build a military base, and China has denied seeking a military foothold in the South Pacific.

“Our consistently stated view, including from the perspective of Australia’s national interests, remains that the Pacific family is best placed to meet the security needs of the region,” they said.

“We are concerned about the lack of transparency with which this agreement has been developed, noting its potential to undermine stability in our region.”

They welcomed statements from Mr Sogavare that the “Solomon Islands will never be used for military bases or other military institutions of foreign powers”.

Pacific Minister Zed Seselja flew to Honiara on April 12. (Zed Seselja)

Earlier this week, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the agreement could destabilise the Solomon Islands and would set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific region.

“Despite the Solomon Islands government’s comments, the broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of PRC (People’s Republic of China) military forces to the Solomon Islands,” Mr Price said.

Micronesia and other Pacific Island nations have also expressed concerns about the deal, as has the Solomon Islands’ main opposition party.

A sarcophagus made of lead was buried at the heart of the monument. Archeologists said they would open it soon.

Human-shaped sarcophagus found inside world-famous building

In his address, Mr Sogavare defended the pact, saying it would strengthen the country’s police and help them deal with future instability, and that it was “based on mutual respect for sovereignty and in compliance with domestic and international law”.

“Let me assure the people of Solomon Islands that we entered into an arrangement with China with our eyes wide open, guided by our national interests,” he said.

Source: 9News

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