The prime minister of the Solomon Islands has called for a review of his nation’s security treaty with Australia amid growing strategic competition in the Pacific region between China, the United States and its allies.
Manasseh Sogavare made the statement on Wednesday following a meeting with the Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles in Honiara, according to the prime minister’s office.
Marles is on a two-day visit to the Solomon Islands for security talks that come days ahead of a visit by Sogavare to China.
Australia is a significant aid donor and has a decades-long security relationship with the Solomon Islands.
Canberra deployed troops to the Solomon Islands in 2021 at Honiara’s request following anti-government protests, alongside defence personnel from Fiji and New Zealand.
The deployment was part of a 2017 security treaty between Australia and the Solomon Islands, which allows Australian police and defence personnel to deploy rapidly to the Solomon Islands if the need arises and both countries consent.
Sogavare’s office said he had “conveyed the country’s appreciation to Australia’s on-going support in the area of security” in his meeting with Marles.
“The Prime Minister expressed the need to review the current security treaty between the two countries to take into account the changing security challenges faced by both countries,” the statement said.
Marles wrote on Twitter that he had “a productive meeting” with Sogavare, discussing “the deepening partnership between our two countries, including through regional security, infrastructure, labour mobility and health”.
Marles also met members of the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force (SIAF).
His visit comes amid growing concern in Australia, New Zealand and the US about Beijing’s ambitions in the strategically located region.
Sogavare signed a security pact with China last year, while Chinese police have taken an increasing role in training and equipping the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force in recent months.
The Solomon Islands is hosting the Pacific Games in Honiara in November and China has funded the regional sporting event and built seven stadiums and other venues.
Chinese police have pledged to “continuously support” the Solomon Island’s police “throughout and after” the event.
Sogavare’s office said assessments were ongoing to determine security needs during the games, adding that “Australia will be notified through appropriate channels” should there be areas to address.
The prime minister is expected to travel to China next week, he told parliament on Monday.
His office told the Reuters news agency that details of his China visit were being finalised.