Japan to send foreign minister to Solomon Islands amid security concerns

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Japan to send foreign minister to Solomon Islands amid security concerns

TOKYO Kyodo Japan will send a vice foreign minister to the Solomon Islands later this month due to concerns that a security pact between the southwest Pacific nation and China will increase Beijing's military influence in the region, government sources said Thursday.

The visit by Shingo Miyake, a parliamentary vice minister for foreign affairs, comes after China and the Solomon Islands announced earlier this week that they had signed a deal that will allow the deployment of Chinese forces and the docking of their ships in the islands.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has started making arrangements to visit Palau in early May, a Pacific island country that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, according to sources.

In partnership with the United States and Australia, the Japanese government is hoping to boost ties with the Solomon Islands and cooperate with the country in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. It is the first time a Japanese government official has visited the Solomon Islands since August 2019, when Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Norikazu Suzuki did so.

According to sources, Miyake is expected to meet Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele in the country's capital, Honiara. A meeting with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is also being arranged.

In the year 2019, the Solomon Islands switched their diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing. The United States and its allies are stepping up efforts to push back against China's assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, as Beijing puts pressure on Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island that it regards as its territory.

The White House issued a statement Tuesday, saying that the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand shared concerns over the China-Solomon Islands security partnership.

Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said at a press conference on Thursday that Tokyo recognizes that the pact could affect the security of the entire Pacific region and that it will be monitoring developments with concern.

He said Japan is trying to confirm the details of the new treaty.

According to the sources, Hayashi is expected to meet President Surangel Whipps in Palau and reaffirm close cooperation with a focus on China.

The foreign minister is due to visit Fiji, the current chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional body consisting of 18 member states.