China leases island after Solomons switch, raises fears over potential military use

Geographically strategic island of Tulagi previously occupied by Japan during WWII

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Tulagi part of Solomon Islands. (Facebook photo)

Tulagi part of Solomon Islands. (Facebook photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Beijing-based company has signed a secretive deal to lease the entire island of Tulagi, one of the Solomon Islands, and its surroundings just weeks after the Pacific nation's diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China.

According to The New York Times, after the Chinese government pressured the Solomon Islands to abandon its relations with Taiwan, a company closely tied to the Chinese Communist Party has now secured the development rights for Tulagi. The news of the lease agreement came as a shock and warning to the U.S. since the island is known to be a "military gem."

Geography of Tulagi offers military advantage. (Wikimedia)

The Japanese army occupied the island of Tulagi in 1942 with the intention of establishing a seaplane base. Some fear that the island's deep water anchorage could be used as a strategic military facility by the Chinese.

According to Anne-Marie Brady, a New Zealand political researcher who specializes in Chinese politics, "China is expanding its military assets into the South Pacific." U.S. scholars consider Tulagi to be crucial to protecting important sea routes, according to CNA.