Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said Wednesday that his government signed a controversial security pact with China with our eyes open but refused to say when it will be published.
The deal, announced by Beijing on Tuesday, has been sharply criticised by the island state's allies the United States and Australia, which fear it could lead to China gaining a military foothold in the South Pacific.
Sogavare told the parliament it was an honour and privilege to announce that the deal had been signed by officials in Honiara and Beijing a few days ago, but he didn't tell the opposition leader when the signed version of the pact would be made public. A bilateral security deal with Australia was published a number of years ago.
When it was leaked last month, a draft version of the China deal sent a shockwave across the region, particularly measures that would allow Chinese naval deployments to the Solomon Islands.
The U.S. and Australia tried to prevent it from being signed but were ultimately unsuccessful, as per the broad wording of the draft deal.
Sogavare said the deal with China complements his existing treaty with Australia.
He said that if the Solomon Islands continued under the status quo, it wouldn't be able to cover critical security gaps. He said that we must assure the people that we entered into an arrangement with China with our eyes open, guided by our national interests.
Sogavare asked all of his nation's neighbours, friends and partners to respect the sovereign interests of the Solomon Islands Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, criticising the Solomon Islands Wednesday for lack of transparency and a failure to consult with other Pacific nations about the deal.
Kurt Campbell, the top Asia official, will arrive in the Solomon Islands later this week, along with Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.