TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Japan sent Vice-Foreign Minister Uesugi Kentaro to the Solomon Islands on Monday (April 25) as geopolitical tensions heat up over the Pacific nation’s recent security deal with China.
The agreement gives China the right to deploy its security forces in the Solomons, which has sparked fears among liberal democracies in the region that it could host a Chinese naval base in the near future.
Uesugi will likely meet with Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele during his stay, and a meeting with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is also being planned, according to Asia Times.
“We believe the deal could affect the security of the entire Asia-Pacific region, and we are watching the development with concern,” Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stated. Experts believe the Japanese will try to make the Solomon Island’s government a counter-offer, which may include high-quality aid and assistance packages.
“The Japanese aid agency could come in pretty strong, offering development and infrastructure packages,” said Alex Neill, a Singapore-based security analyst. “They are keen on good stewardship; they always talk about the quality they can offer. It is about high-quality development financing as an alternative to the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative).”
Japan's allies the U.S. and Australia share its concerns over China’s expansion into the Indo-Pacific and have been vocal critics of the security deal.
The White House issued a recent statement that declared Washington would "respond accordingly" to any (Chinese) "de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation."
On Sunday (April 24), Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a Chinese naval base would be a "red line" for his country. "This is a shared concern, not just Australia. This is Australia and regional governments, particularly places like Fiji and Papua New Guinea," Morrison added.
"We won't be having Chinese military naval bases in our region, on our doorstep," he asserted.