Guest post: Speedbox – China’s push into the Pacific

The Chinese have signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands.  According to the MSM, and depending on your political persuasion, the signing of this pact is either the “worst Australian foreign policy blunder since WWII” (said Penny Wong) or “the judgement was made not to engage at a foreign-minister level to ensure that Australia’s views were communicated very clearly and very respectfully.  This was the right, calibrated way to address this issue with their Prime Minister” (said Scott Morrison).

Do Morrison’s comments mean that our Foreign Minister Marise Payne could not communicate clearly and respectfully?  In any event, the Solomons have done the deal with the Chinese.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted unnamed ‘security experts’ as saying the Chinese government would act swiftly to implement the deal by sending military forces to the Solomons during the election campaign in order to capitalise on the caretaker period in Australian politics and match the rapid development of bases in the South China Sea.

Even the New York Times expressed alarm in an analysis article saying “China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and his army now have a foothold in an island chain that played a decisive role in World War II and could be used to block vital shipping lanes”.   They had their own expert in Anne-Marie Brady, a professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand who offered an insightful analysis with “It’s a game changer.”

Suddenly, everybody seems concerned that China could/might/will use the pact to establish a permanent military presence in the Solomons.  The government of the Solomon Islands says they won’t allow this to happen – but nobody believes them.

Danny Philip, the former Solomon Islands prime minister and confidante of current leader Manasseh Sogavare, came out defending the yet-to-be-published agreement with Beijing.  When asked whether the agreement was chiefly to protect Chinese investments in the country more than protecting Solomon Islands citizens, Mr Philip said it was for “both”.

“It is both for our own security as a country internally but also for the interests of Chinese investments and infrastructure.”

And just to kick some sand in our face, Danny compared the arrangement to the American facility at Pine Gap saying “People in Australia know very little about Pine Gap in the middle of the desert, the military base of the United States”.   So there.

Of course, it must be said that until a few days ago, most Australians couldn’t find the Solomon Islands on a map using a torch and magnifying glass.  Fortunately, for those who are geographically challenged, the MSM helpfully published assorted maps showing the location of the Solomons and the distance to Australia (about 1,800km direct to Townsville).

If nothing else however, it points to our traditional cack-handling and seeming indifference to our near neighbours in the pacific.  Several reports suggest that Australia had intelligence of the proposed deal back in August 2021 and I would have imagined that the prospect of China setting up shop nearby would prompt a flurry of diplomatic efforts requiring visits by our most senior ministers.

But no, I would be wrong.  Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne was “too busy” with visits to Greece, Belgium, Austria, international Covid vaccination questions, the developing Russia/Ukraine issue (15,000 kms away) requiring her to fly back and forth for meetings with NATO and the UN Security Council (neither of which we are a member) and of course, with the forthcoming election.

We did send Pacific Minister Zed Seselja (who?) to Honiara at the eleventh hour in a last-ditch attempt to stop the deal from being inked, but by then it was too little, too late.

Marise did helpfully tell us, after the agreement was signed, that “ultimately the countries of our region and abroad make their own sovereign decisions” even though she was “deeply disappointed”.

Yeah, I’m a bit disappointed too, although probably for different reasons.

On the other hand, perhaps we’re concerned over nothing.  After all, Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles dismissed concerns over Beijing’s increased presence in the Pacific and fears China could set up military bases on island nations.  In fact, during a 2019 trip to Beijing, funded by the now defunct think-tank China Matters, Marles told the Foreign Studies University he had been “very cognisant” since 2012 about the role China was playing in the Pacific.

“The idea the Pacific nations would adhere to a call from Australia to not engage with China is silly,” Marles said.  “The Pacific needs help and Australia needs to welcome any country willing to provide it.  Certainly the Pacific Island countries themselves do.  Let me be crystal clear: that was and has been a good thing.”

Okey dokey.   Nothing to worry about folks, move along.

The laughter in the Great Hall of the People must be deafening at times.

God help us.

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April 22, 2022 2:34 pm

Solomon Islands government is corrupt to the core. If the Chinese want to play the bribery game, we cannot (and should not) compete.

Dave of Gold Coast, Aust.
Dave of Gold Coast, Aust.
April 22, 2022 2:41 pm

Nearly too stunned to reply. Where do our ‘leaders’ live…. Lala land I surmise. China is on the rise with militant activity and expansionism everywhere to plunder resources in every place whether Africa, South America, Asia and the Pacific. Let’s not forget the Afghan rare earth mines they took over 5 minutes after the US ‘fled’ the country. Australia seems to be in a permanent state of
any of the following; indifference, ignorance or inertia.

Rex Anger
Rex Anger
April 22, 2022 2:45 pm

I don’t think the Labor Party (or Libs, for that matter), the Australian Public Service and intelligentsia have been this badly penetrated and compromised by a totalitarian foreign power since the 1950s. Maybe even worse, for the fact there was active opposition against Communist infiltration right up to the 1980s.

John Brumble
John Brumble
April 22, 2022 2:53 pm

What was the alternative? Keep giving in to ever-increasing demands for money “or else we’ll sign with China”? If the Solomons are willing to deal with Beijing now, what makes anyone think they wouldn’t cave in during a time of war?
At least this way we can save some money.

April 22, 2022 3:13 pm

Then again, Australia leased Darwin Port to the Chicoms, so we’re hardly leading by example.

April 22, 2022 3:21 pm

“worst Australian foreign policy blunder since WWII” (said Penny Wong)

What does the idiot expect Australia to have done, and how would a Labor government have done it differently?
The Solomons are an autonomous nation and don’t take orders from Canberra.
Does Wong (very pro-China) think that Australia should have got in a bidding war with China to bribe the Solomons government or individual ministers (as has almost certainly happened)?
A bidding war that Australia could not have won.

April 22, 2022 3:26 pm

And then there’s this:

Great leap forward territory?

Xi is a communist so it would mean nothing to him to starve 100 million people in order to keep his power. Plus he believes in vaccinations so that makes him doubly insane.

April 22, 2022 4:12 pm

Solomon Islands signed China security pact with ‘eyes open’ despite criticism and meddling from US, Australia

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said Wednesday his government signed a controversial security pact with China “with our eyes open” but refused to say when it may be published.

The deal, announced by Beijing a day earlier, has faced sharp criticism from the United States and Australia, which fear the pact could lead to China gaining a military foothold in the South Pacific.

Sogavare told 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”.

He declined to tell the opposition leader when the signed version of the pact would be made public. A bilateral security deal with Australia was signed in 2017, and came into force the following year.

A draft version of the China-Solomon Islands deal sent a shock wave across the region when it was leaked last month, particularly measures that would allow Chinese naval deployments to the Pacific nation, located less than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) from Australia.

The broad wording of the draft deal prompted a flurry of diplomatic overtures from the United States and Australia to prevent it from being signed — including a last-ditch visit from Australia’s Pacific minister — but they were ultimately unsuccessful.

“Let me assure the people of Solomon Islands that we entered into an arrangement with China with our eyes open, guided by our national interests,” Sogavare told parliament on Wednesday.

He asked all of his nation’s “neighbours, friends and partners to respect the sovereign interests of the Solomon Islands”.

Australia criticised

April 22, 2022 5:16 pm

Great. If they build a base they will be much easier to target than would be a fleet of ships.

Once we get some decent weapons like ICBMs & Cruise missiles we will know exactly where to target to eliminate a large number of them if it comes to that.

Might be a pity about Darwin.

John Brumble
John Brumble
April 22, 2022 7:20 pm

Quite, Lee. The choices were to give
into ever-increasing demands for money or just accept that there is no point throwing good money after bad towards a nation that is going to entertain getting into bed with Beijing. At the end of the day, if they are going to take the money now, they’ll take the money to jump ship in times of war anyway.

April 22, 2022 7:23 pm

Several reports suggest that Australia had intelligence of the proposed deal back in August 2021

Courtesy the SI Opposition leader, who reported it to local; Oz officials.

Now, I’ve raised the question here before: who dropped the ball he passed to us?

The local office or Canberra?

I guess we’ll never know. And the person responsible will be promoted.

We are not a serious country.

April 22, 2022 7:24 pm

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said Wednesday his government signed a controversial security pact with China “with our eyes open” …

And our wallets.

April 22, 2022 7:43 pm

So what about the China – Solomon Island Agreement?

It’s sure to result in secure fish farms, just like China’s deal with New Guinea for Daru Island.

Move along… nothing to see here.

Don’t you think our illustrious ADF leadership would have spoken up if there was going to be a problem?

Ed Case
Ed Case
April 22, 2022 7:50 pm

“The idea the Pacific nations would adhere to a call from Australia to not engage with China is silly,” Marles said. “The Pacific needs help and Australia needs to welcome any country willing to provide it. Certainly the Pacific Island countries themselves do. Let me be crystal clear: that was and has been a good thing.”

Sounds reasonable, though I doubt Marles believes anything he says.
Australia has been playing the politics of division in the South Pacific forever, now the chickens have come home to roost.
Labor owns it too.

April 22, 2022 9:00 pm

After the great leap forward of our UNited political parties and they have blown up all the coal and gas fired power stations by 2030 who will be left in Australia to conquer?

Perfidious Albino
Perfidious Albino
April 22, 2022 10:41 pm

Look, it’s not ideal, but whatever, we just need to adapt rapidly to the new reality. Absolutely no point getting into a bidding war and the next time they need someone to ‘helpem fren’ they can have it translated into mandarin for the campaign patches. Honiara bitches!

April 22, 2022 11:01 pm

Xi is a modern Mao and Australia just gave him a major boost.

And heaven help us if he and Putin On The Ritz join hands.

April 23, 2022 7:05 am

It appears to this old dude that there is a lot of sabre rattling going on by parties that traditionally rattle sabres or exchange brown paper bags. In these latter years even the novice nations have spread their wings to become part of a broad empire in the not so illustrious trade of brown bags and bullshit.

How about we look at (list) who does the real productive work for the not so fortunate around the globe, rather than those who concentrate their efforts via series of false flags coupled to mass exterminations, just to gain footholds into an opposing Nations underground of graft and corruption.

There is trade…. and then there is alternative trade ….
I for one no longer wonder as to whom has peace behind the exchange of services.

Its become bloody obvious

Colonel Crispin Berka
Colonel Crispin Berka
April 23, 2022 9:14 am

At Their ABC:

This morning, Morrison zeroed in on deputy Labor leader Richard Marles, claiming Marles is soft on China. Now, this is a fairly front-foot sort of a move from the leader of a government whose work in this area includes the accidental leasing of the Port of Darwin to China and the establishment this week of a Chinese defence pact with Solomon Islands, a development that Mr Morrison is additionally accused of deputising Pacific Minister Zed Seselja to prevent, rather than going to Honiara himself. (It’s taken a few years, but Scott Morrison is now officially in trouble for NOT zooming to a tropical location in a time of national crisis)

It’s taken a few years but Annabel Crabb is now showing a glimmer of awareness of the Green/Left’s double standards that ensure the Liberal party is always wrong no matter what they do.
It’s like she thought those parentheses were some sort of invisible cloaking device that only Green/Labor voters can see through. 😀

Ed Case
Ed Case
April 23, 2022 1:33 pm

Latest word on those Oligarchs who killed their wives and children, then suicided, one in Moscow, the other in Spain, in the last 48 hours, both Russian Jews.

vlad redux
vlad redux
April 23, 2022 4:27 pm

Any state that signs a deal with the ChiCom loan sharks is obviously not up to the task of self-government.

Examples: the Northern Territory and Victoria.

April 24, 2022 10:20 am

My 2c worth. Marise Payne has a history of being useless and arrogant, look at what she did to Defence and she was less than stellar in Human Services. As for DFAT, too busy swanning around Europe instead of places like Honiara or Port Moresby that are probably more important. I’ve met more Aussies involved in the Finance sector in Asia than any trade types.

As for warning we’ve had plenty of it. Chinese tried purchasing an island in Iron Bottom Sound years back if I remember correctly, to build a port. The old Newcrest mine has been reopened by Chinese money. Malaitans have been warning about Sogavare since last year. You can bet the US intelligence has been feeding ASIS similar info over a longer term.

Haven’t been to Honiara in decades. Guess it wouldn’t have changed much, used to be a decent restaurant on the Port, Chinese of course. Taiwanese general store out past the sports stadium towards Henderson AF in a complex was good as well. Rest of the place not much chop, very undeveloped. Malaita and the Western Provinces were even worse. If I were the Chinese I wouldn’t take this as a done deal, heard about of plenty of ex-BRA fighters kicking around place and there’s the combatants from 2003 all still there. The Helpem Frend weapons hand back didn’t get them all and the supply of these weapons. Chinese aren’t wantocks so the Islanders could again turn on a dime against them.

April 24, 2022 10:24 am

FMD, don’t know what happened there.

and the supply of more weapons by the Chinese could backfire.

Perfidious Albino
Perfidious Albino
April 24, 2022 10:50 am

Yes, it’s telling that all the criticism is of ScoMo, not the FM. Perhaps it’s just because it’s election season, but I reckon they are all uber cautious after Kimberley Kitching as well.

April 24, 2022 11:49 am

Perfidious, Payne’s partner is Ayers. Another Photios dripping wet. Marise is a protected species. Mind you Bishop wasn’t much chop either, then Carr, Rudd, Smith… I spent a bit of time in the Asia Pacific region during Downers reign. Despite coming across as an arrogant toff, I found more respect and positive views of Australia than I have on subsequent visits since Rudd became PM and on. Guess we are not thought of as a serious player anymore.

Interesting too that the US has had to inject itself into the Sol Is as well. Senior delegation visit and reopening of the Embassy.

April 25, 2022 4:26 pm

Bradd is quite right. Corruption is degrading the fundamental ability of the Solomons to manage even basics. Same is true of other places like PNG. It is way past time for australia and others to impose direct control on aid delivery. China will do their thing – but they are already seen by locals as the biggest corrupt influence. We need more teeth in our diplomacy and sharper strategies.

April 29, 2022 10:51 am

I have been travelling and working in the Pacific Islands for 25 years.

The CCP has had their Pacific Project running for at least that long.

The fact that Australia apparently has no counter to this move. Completely dropped the ball on the Solomons and ignored US advice on the Solomons (stay there peace keeping until the election) is an absolute indictment.

The Australian Political Class are at best simply incompetent idiots and at worst part of the problem.

I’m not criticising without offering a solution either. The People of these countries recognise the problem, they only accept the situation when they get a piece of the trickle down corruption.

The counter to The CCP in The Pacific is to ensure that Real Power remains with The People. Of course this runs counter to the entire Australian Government ethos. It would require Small Government and The People being armed and politically powerful.

Australia’s actions in The Pacific have actively facilitated the CCP. They have helped build big and powerful Government wherever they could, and actively helped to disarm and subjugated The People wherever they could.

April 29, 2022 11:01 am

Victoria is The Solomon Islands of Australia.

Why can’t the Corrupt Pro CCP regime be taken down by The People?

Because so much power has been consolidated into the hands of Government.

Look at Dickhead Dan’s pressers, he’s literally telling any journo who’s asking the questions they should have been asking 4 years ago to fuck off. He’s lawfaring anyone who takes him on into the ground with the full taxpayer funding (rebel news). He’s got a highly trained and well equipped police force essentially at his complete disposal to direct against his enemies as he sees fit.

April 29, 2022 11:10 am

The Australian Political Class are at best simply incompetent idiots and at worst part of the problem.

grotesque troop of clowns

April 29, 2022 11:22 am

Tucker: This the point where we have to draw the line

Fox News host gives take on the ‘Ministry of Truth’ leader on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’ #FoxNews #Tucker

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