Global concerns over the Solomon Islands-China security deal and its impact on the Asia-Pacific Region

    On 19th April 2022, Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin declared that it signed a framework agreement on security collaboration with Solomon Island with the purpose of promoting security collaboration between the two countries. According to China, the deal seeks to strengthen social stability and long-term tranquility in the Solomon Islands, and it does not target any third states, manifesting mutual interests of the South Pacific (Al Jazeera, 2022). China asserts that the agreement runs parallel and complementary to persisting security arrangements with the Solomon Island. Under the agreement, the two parties will conduct cooperation in areas such as preservation of social order, safeguarding the lives and property of people, provision of humanitarian assistance, and strengthening disaster relief response in an attempt to facilitate Solomon Island’s capability in the protection of its own security. 

    The news of the deal came to the global forefront a day after America stated that it would send a delegation comprising senior officials to the South Pacific state to persuade the nation to dismiss the deal. The delegation intended to present the case that America could deliver peace and security across the Pacific Islands and the Asia Pacific region. There is still uncertainty surrounding the final provisions of the agreement because of the secrecy surrounding it. The prime minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare has emphasized that confidentially was not nefarious; rather, it stems from the assertion of the state’s sovereignty. Nevertheless, Sogavare’s comments reveal that finalized version is remarkably similar to the leaked draft, a document with six articles with defined terms and power that would allow China to roads into the island nation. The leaked draft suggests that the agreement would permit Beijing’s warship to stop in the Islands and its police to be deployed at the request of the archipelago to sustain social order (Gunia, 2022). Sogavare, asserted that the state seeks to enhance its policing capacities by fully equipping its police to undertake its complete security responsibilities. However, both parties are not allowed to divulge the missions to the general public unless authorized by the other party in the form of written consent. 

    Sogavare has declared that the state does not intend to establish a military base in the region and justifies the deal under the pretext of its national interests. The pacific nation, for a long, has battled with political and social unrest; most recently, in November 2021, dissidents targeted Honiara’s Chinatown and attempted to storm the prime minister’s residence. A contingent of an Australian police force, on the request of the Solomon government, helped to restore stability in the region. Currently, internal distress has further increased in the aftermath of the deal. Sogavere’s regime has issued strident warnings to the opposition in the previous days. On 4th April, the government dismissed the reports of splits between the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF). Overall, recent developments have raised widespread concerns over the fragility of the Solomon Islands’ that could inflame conflict, especially as the elections are all set to take place in 2023. 

    Global concerns over the agreement 

    Various states, including the USA, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, have been vocal about their concerns surrounding the security pact between China and Solomon Island. 

    Rise in China’s Global Influence: The USA is concerned over China’s growing assertiveness in the region. In an official statement, the White House stated that the prosed framework poses a serious threat to open and free Indo-Pacific theatre. The US have explicitly pointed out “the lack of transparency and unspecified nature” of the deal. A spokesperson of the US National Security Council stated that Beijing have offered a vague deal with little regional cooperation in areas such as fishing, management of resources, development assistance, and most importantly, security (Al Jazeera, 2022). Amid the situation, the US seeks to strengthen its engagement in the region to deal with pressing challenges of the 22nd century, mainly maritime security, Covid’19, climate, etc. Therefore, the US has committed to the establishment of strong ties with the region. 

    New Zealand’s PM has also raised its voice over Beijing growing involvement in the Asia-Pacific, challenging the motive of the security arrangement between China and the Solomon Islands. New Zealand stated that it has upheld its commitment to the Biketawa Decelation that outlined as to how Pacific Island states will react to regional crises, which includes the response to social unrest in Honiara in 2021 (Cave, 2022). Therefore, it argues the forum to formulate an agenda to discuss the concerns surrounding regional security architecture as sovereignty. 

    Australia’s disappointment: The most vocal critic of the agreement has been Australia which signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands in 2017. Scott Morrison, amid the election campaign, stated that the deal manifested intense pressure from China experienced by Pacific countries. While Australia acknowledges the right of a sovereign nation to make its decisions, it expressed deep disappointment over the agreement (Clark, 2022). Their grave concern is the lack of transparency that surrounds the process and its potential to destabilize the entire region. For years, tensions have been increasing between Canberra and Beijing since the ban on Huawei; other contentious issues include political disputes over trade, defense, cyber security, and most recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

    Nevertheless, the important aspect is the global rise of China and its potential to threaten US hegemony, a traditional strategic ally of Australia. Official have also expressed their concerns over the probability of Chinese military presence less than 2000km from the shores of Australia. The expression ‘naval base’ generates a set of anxieties for Austria; however, Sogavare has allied concerns by stating his lack of interest in the establishment of a naval base. While Scoot Morrison appeared convinced, his deputy asserted that the deal could transform Solomon’s “into our own little Cuba.” The opposition labor party have deemed the culmination of the agreement as a policy failure on behalf of Australian government that turned a blind eye to China when it was cementing its influence in the region and questioned its ability to avert it (Clark, 2022). 

    Sovereignty concerns: From the standpoint of the Solomon Islands, the most pressing concern is sovereignty, which they view as being compromised. Therefore, according to them, the deal has the potential to force their country into a theatre of geostrategic competition, contributing to social unrest, mistrust, and cynicism in an already fragile state (Kabutaulaka, 2022). Move over, Solomon Islanders fear that deal could permit the government to request Chinese military assistance for the attainment of political purposes, such as the crackdown on protests. 

    The sovereignty of the Solomon Islands would seemingly be safeguarded by thinly detailed triggers and weak powers controlling Chinese intervention, such as the power of activation for the agreement and “consent” for Chinese naval visits being retained by the Solomon Islands’ government. Nevertheless, the world provides both countries the power to act in their own way in accordance with their needs, but it depends on the latitude that the deal offers Beijing for the expansion of its military power in the southwest Pacific region. 

    Implications for Asia-Pacific 

    The security deal between the Solomon Islands and China has far-reaching domestic and geopolitical ramifications. The two contexts are interconnected; the geopolitical contention between Beijing on the one hand, and Taiwan, the US, Australia, and other allies on the other hand, mapped onto lingering domestic tensions that have regularly erupted in the form of political and social unrest in the Solomon Islands. 

    The deal also impacts the wider security architecture of the Asia-Pacific. The year 2022 will mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, which deteriorated the military forces of the US and Japan and cost the lives of Solomon Islander’s, reminding the world of the enduring strategic significance of the region (Gunia, 2022). In Particular, it deeply impacts Australia as it is located only 3200km away from the Solomon Islands, stretching over vital Australian sea lanes of communication. Moreover, Solomon Island holds strategic significance for its neighboring states, such as Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand, etc. 

    The question that threatens the Asia-Pacific the most is whether China will construct any military base in the future. Sogavare has insisted that China will not establish a military base to increase power projection in Southwest Pacific; however, Beijing’s past endeavors in Vanuatu, Papa New Guinea, activities in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port and Pakistan’s Gwadar port, and Ream Naval base in Cambodia depicts otherwise (Cave, 2022). Therefore, in the longer run, China participates in a complex strategic game, with major concerns surrounding Chinese attempts to establish a principle of employing its military power to protect its economic interests globally. 

    The revelation of the deal has already impacted the approach of the US and its allies to the Pacific region; for example, in March, New Zealand and Australia upgraded their defense cooperation with Fiji (Peter, 2022). Moreover, on 29th March, the US Senate Hearing on the Compact of Free Association Negotiations was held; the hearing collected evidence from the state department, defense, and interior over the state of the US government’s talks with Marshal Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. Since December 2020, there has been a lack of progress in these negotiations, but on March 22nd, a Special Presidential Envoy was appointed for Compact Negotiations. 

    The revelation of the deal has already impacted the approach of the US and its allies to the Pacific region; for example, in March, New Zealand and Australia upgraded their defense cooperation with Fiji. Moreover, on 29th March, the US Senate Hearing on the Compact of Free Association Negotiations was held; the hearing collected evidence from the state department, defense, and interior over the state of the US government’s talks with Marshal Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. Since December 2020, there has been a lack of progress in these negotiations, but on March 22nd, a Special Presidential Envoy was appointed for Compact Negotiations. 

    Thus, Confidentiality surrounding the agreement and vague assurances by Sogavare has shaken the peace and stability of the entire Asia-Pacific. Sogavare has already asserted that he aims to delay elections that are supposed to be held next year by redrafting the constitution; the Solomon Islands have Beijing to lean on in case of protests break out (Lyons & Wickham, 2022). Simultaneously, Beijing’s army had a considerable foothold in an island chain that played a crucial role in WWII and could be utilized to restrict access to vital shipping lanes. 

    The entire scenario suggests that the speed and magnitude of US engagement with the Pacific Islands will grow exponentially. To prevent the replication of the agreement elsewhere in the region, sweeping reforms would be required by the US and its allies. The Solomon Islands dynamics are influenced by Beijing’s elite capture and unharnessed diplomatic opportunities; for example, in February 2022, the US declared its plan to reestablish its embassy in the Solomon Islands, which was close in 1993. This suggests that the gradual and business-as-usual approach has failed. The attention to the region is long overdue; global concerns suggest that signing the pact would cost the Solomon Islands and the wider security architecture of the Asia Pacific, with the cost being far greater than what Sogavare has bargained for (Stünkel & Lanteigne, 2022).


    Al Jazeera. (2022, April 20). Why is the Solomon Islands-China security pact causing alarm? Retrieved from 

    Cave, D. (2022, April 20). Why China’s Security Pact with the Solomon Islands is a Threat. Retrieved from 

    Clark, C. (2022, April 20). China says Solomon Islands security pact signed; critics knock Morrison government. Retrieved from 

    Gunia, A. (2022, April 20). An Archipelago in the South Pacific Is Becoming the Newest Scene of Tensions Between China and the U.S. Retrieved from 

    Kabutaulaka, T. (2022, March 30). Solomon Islands asserts its sovereignty – with China and the West. Retrieved from 

    Lyons, K., & Wickham, D. (2022, April 22). The deal that shocked the world: inside the China-Solomons security pact. Retrieved from 

    Peter, T. (2022, March 25). Document indicates China could boost military in Solomons. Retrieved from 

    Stünkel, L., & Lanteigne, M. (2022, April 14). The Geopolitical Aftershocks of the China-Solomon Islands Security Agreement. Retrieved from

    Paul Johnstone
    Experienced Security Advisor and Trainer/Lecturer skilled in Crisis Management, Law Enforcement, Counter Terrorism, Emergency Management, Investigations, and Physical Security. Strong military and federal law enforcement professional who graduated from University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australian Federal Police College and various tertiary institutions in Australia and China.