Australian spy chief denies failure to stop Solomon Islands military pact with China

Australian spy chief denies failure to stop Solomon Islands military pact with China

One of Australia's top national security figures denies that there was a failure by intelligence agencies to stop a military pact between the Solomon Islands and China.

The head of the Office of National Intelligence ONI, Andrew Shearer, warned that Chinese police officers who have already arrived in the Pacific nation could cause more violence and instability.

In early April, Mr Shearer joined his counterpart from Australia's overseas spy agency ASIS in an unsuccessful last-ditch mission to Honiara to urge Solomon Islands to scrap its deal with Beijing.

Three weeks after his talks with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, the ONI boss has been questioned about whether Australian intelligence agencies failed to stop China's move.

It wasn't an intelligence failure, this strategy has been unfolding for a number of years, Mr Shearer declared while speaking at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi.

We saw this building, this building Chinese presence across the Indo-Pacific, and for those of us watching closely there were signs of this well over a decade ago. After November's civil unrest in the Solomon capital, Australia dispatched dozens of defence force personnel and federal police to restore order.

They were soon followed by Chinese anti-riot police trainers, but Mr Shearer fears that their presence could lead to a confrontation in Honiara.

He warned that unity of command is always desirable in any security operation, and confusion around unity of command is an issue.

In such a fragile, volatile country, Chinese policing techniques and tactics that we've seen deployed so ruthlessly in Hong Kong for example are completely inconsistent with the Pacific way of resolving issues and could cause further instability and violence. While acknowledging Australia was not a perfect partner for the Pacific nations, Mr Shearer insists that China's motives were particularly unhelpful for the region.

I think our motives are pure and have been pure for decades. We accept these countries making their own decisions. We can't accept an outside power that is influencing the choices of these countries. Tony Abbott, who was also speaking on a panel discussion about China, was joined by his one-time boss, and former prime minister, Shearer, at the Raisina Dialogue.

Abbott stated that countries needed to deal with a strong and dangerous China with great care, but he said that any attempted invasion of Taiwan had to be met with force.

When it comes to any attempt to seize a flourishing democracy by force, I think that absolutely requires a confrontation, Mr Abbott said.

Late on Tuesday, China hit out at the Australian government's increasingly strident criticisms of its actions.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin took aim at recent comments made by Defence Minister Peter Dutton, who suggested Beijing paid bribes to politicians in Solomon Islands.

An individual Australian politician used to make crazy comments to smear China and instigate war for their own political interests, he said in a briefing in Beijing.

Their behaviours are despicable, and the Chinese people and international community see that clearly.