Solomon Islands politician compares China security deal to Pine Gap

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Solomon Islands politician compares China security deal to Pine Gap

A key Solomon Islands politician likened his country's secretive military pact with China to the mysterious Pine Gap installation jointly operated by the United States and Australia.

Danny Philip, a former Solomon Islands prime minister and confidante of current leader Manasseh Sogavare, staunchly defended the yet-to- be-published agreement with Beijing, arguing that public approval for the document was not needed.

He also confirmed that the final text of the deal signed with China was very close to the wide-ranging leaked draft that caused deep alarm in both Canberra and Washington.

The revelation that China and Solomon Islands finally signed the agreement has caused a political storm in Australia, with Labor accusing the Prime Minister of presiding over the biggest Australian foreign policy failure in the Pacific since World War II.

An executive decision was made by Mr Philip during an online seminar on Thursday, and was signed and drawn up very much for the eyes of the government.

In terms of national security there are some things that do not need to have the whole country's legitimacy, he said at the event, hosted by the University of Hawaii.

Mr Philip compared the arrangement to the highly secretive Pine Gap American satellite surveillance base just outside Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Defending his government's lack of transparency on the Chinese deal.

There are agreements that open up all major ports in Australia that are not seen by the citizens of the country. The comments by a powerful government MP and former leader will reinforce the worries in the Australian government, which fears vague and broadly-worded language in the security agreement could lead to a Chinese military presence in Solomon Islands.

According to a draft of the deal last month, Beijing would be able to send military forces to Solomon Islands to protect Chinese infrastructure, carry out ship visits, and carry out logistical replenishment in and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands. Philip also made the claim that Australian forces had refused to guard Chinese infrastructure during the riots that occurred in Honiara in November last year.

Australian officials have denied that assertion in the past, insisting that Australian police and ADF personnel had been sent to the Solomons as part of a broader regional security force under the command of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

A very senior diplomat from the Australian High Commission said very plainly to us that their presence here is not to protect any Chinese interests, he said.

That gives rise to other considerations in the mind of the Solomon Islands government to get the Chinese police to come in to train their own police. When asked whether the agreement was intended to protect Chinese investments in the country rather than protect Solomon Islands citizens, Mr Philip said it was for both our own security as a country and the interests of Chinese investments and infrastructure.