China will consider building a police training center in the Solomon Islands as Foreign Minister Wang Yi travels the Pacific in a bid to increase his influence in the region.
- Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele says China is considering a proposal to build a police training center in the Pacific nation
- China will also help Samoa build a fingerprint lab to accompany an already announced police academy project.
- Chinese foreign minister tours eight Pacific nations, seeking to secure broad regional security and trade deal
In addition to the possible new police training center in the Solomons, China will also help Samoa build a fingerprint lab to accompany the construction of an already announced new police academy.
Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele announced the proposal during his Chinese counterpart’s visit to Honiara on Thursday.
“China… will further consider a proposal… for a police training center and support for police infrastructure and assets given the country’s fragile security environment,” Mr. Manele said during a briefing. a press conference boycotted by the local media.
China’s foreign minister is currently on an eight-nation tour of the Pacific, where he seeks to conclude a far-reaching regional security and trade deal, ahead of a foreign ministers’ group meeting with 10 countries. from the Pacific to Fiji on Monday.
Wang met with Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa on Saturday and discussed regional priorities on climate change, COVID-19 and security.
After the meeting, the government of Samoa released a statement announcing that China would help build a new fingerprint lab in addition to the previously announced construction of a police academy.
Increased support for police training
The proposal for a Chinese-funded police training center in the Solomon Islands mirrors that of a 2020 pledge to build a police academy in Samoa, as China seeks to increase its influence in the region through a support for police training.
In March, Solomon Islands Police released photos of its officers wielding replica assault rifles donated by the Chinese government, as part of a new police training program run by Chinese police.
At the time, there were questions about the legality of shipping replica guns, as well as the future implications of such gun training.
Experts and opposition politicians believe that the decision to import replica weapons clearly suggests that the police were planning to import real weapons from China in the future.
Australian officials also warn that China could encourage more heavy-handed and confrontational tactics to quell local protests, stoking existing political and ethnic tensions.
China seeks wide-ranging multilateral deal
Earlier this week, it was revealed that China hopes to strike a deal with 10 Pacific nations during Mr Wang’s tour of the region.
The comprehensive deal covers everything from security to fisheries, and is seen by at least one Pacific leader as an attempt by Beijing to take control of the region.
A draft communiqué and five-year action plan sent by Beijing to 10 Pacific nations prompted pushback from the head of the Federated States of Micronesia, who said it showed China’s intention to control the region and “threatens regional stability”.
News of the proposed deal follows last month’s announcement of a new security pact between the Solomon Islands and China, in a move that has involved traditional regional partners such as the United States and India. Australia, as well as intelligence officials.
The pact has raised fears that China could send troops to the island nation or even establish a military base there, not far from Australia.
Solomon Islands and China say there are no plans for a base.
Wang’s tour of the Pacific coincides with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s own visit to the Pacific, meeting Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama on Friday on his first official trip to the region since being sworn in the last week.
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