The Solomon Islands has received more coverage in the Australian media in the last week or so than it has received in the last decade - and it is all based on an unsigned, undated and frankly unsourced "draft document" that purports to be an agreement for China to establish at least one military base and give China a direct influence over the Solomons security.
The alarm expressed in Canberra, Wellington and Washington is unsurprising, though we should have been fully aware of the consequences of China's growing influence in the Solomon Islands and where it would inevitably end up.
I wrote earlier this year that the Solomons Government would be receptive to any proposal from China for closer military and security links I also offered the view that the Solomon Islands would be China's number one target.
I guess I have now written about this connection three or four times in the last twelve months. It defies comprehension that DFAT would not have been preparing for China to develop a comprehensive security agreement with the Solomon Islands.
If our most senior officials in DFAT and the security agencies are taken by surprise then it just confirms how hopelessly out of touch with the reality of China's aggressive and strategic intentions in our region.
The problem is that it is now just about impossible for Australia, New Zealand and the United States to not only block the China strategy from being implemented, but to replace it with a new and comprehensive agreement with Australia and our allies.
Late last year we responded to a panic-driven request from the SI Prime Minister for police and defence personnel to put down civil unrest - unrest which was clear targeting the Prime Minister and his government.
We rushed in and achieved success in a matter of days.
But here is the rub. Within a couple of weeks of the Australian-led success, the SI Prime Minister and the Chinese government reached agreement for an initial small contingent of Chinese police-military personnel in the Solomon Islands. At the time I predicted the small contingent would soon be a large one. That is now going to happen.
Australia, supported by New Zealand, Fiji and PNG have effectively protected the deeply unpopular Sogavare Government which might otherwise have been forced to call national elections.
As I said at the beginning, it is impossible to "source" the draft document - it may have emanated from the SI administration, or out of the growing PRC Embassy in Honiara...or both!
My suspicion is that that the document represents an "ambit claim" outlining a series of defence, policy and security co-operation initiatives. An ambitious ambit claim that will end up being significantly less ambitious - but nonetheless enough to deliver on the PRCs strategic ambitions.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
8 posts so far.