Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom (AUKUS), which condemned China and the Solomon Islands for a security cooperation deal, are the ones militarising the South Pacific and provoking a new arms race in the region, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday.
“Australia, together with the US and the UK, is forming a military bloc and provoking an arms race in the South Pacific without any consultations with island countries of the region,” Zhao said at a press briefing. The spokesman urged Australia to reconsider its actions concerning the issue. Last September, Australia, the US and the UK announced the new trilateral defence partnership, which forced Canberra to give up on a $66 billion contract with France to develop 12 state-of-the-art conventionally powered attack submarines, as the alliance promises to enhance Australia’s fleet with nuclear-powered submarines.
On 19 April, China and the Solomon Islands signed a framework agreement on security cooperation. Australian officials accused the Solomon Islands of a lack of transparency for fear of China’s growing influence. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the construction of a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands will be a “red line” for Canberra and Washington.
Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare, in turn, accused Australia of hypocrisy, stressing that Canberra had not discussed the AUKUS deal with the neighboring countries either. In addition, Chinese high-ranking officials said that the Honiara-Beijing framework agreement does not involve construction of military naval bases on the islands and is not directed against any third country.