New York: The prime minister of the Solomon Islands has complained that his country had been subjected to “a barrage of unwarranted and misplaced criticisms, misinformation and intimidation” since formalising diplomatic relations with China in 2019.
In an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Manasseh Damukana Sogavare said the Solomons had been “unfairly targeted” and “vilified” in the media. He said such treatment “threatens our democracy and sovereignty.”
The Solomons formerly had diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed, self-governed Taiwan, but switched recognition to Beijing in 2019. It has since appeared to move ever closer into China’s orbit, to the alarm of the United States and other Western countries concerned about Beijing’s security designs in the Pacific.
“This decision was reached through democratic processes by a democratically elected government,” Sogavare said of the recognition of China. “I reiterate the call for all to respect our sovereignty and democracy.”
Sogavare said the Solomon Islands had adopted “a ‘friends to all and enemies to none’ foreign policy.”
“In implementing this policy, we will not align ourselves with any external power(s) or security architecture that targets our or any other sovereign country or threaten regional and international peace. Solomon Islands will not be coerced into choosing sides,” he said.
“Our struggle is to develop our country. We stretch out our hand of friendship and seek genuine and honest cooperation and partnership with all.”
Sogavare is due to visit Australia and meet with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese next month at a time where the Pacific islands region has become a new theatre of geopolitical competition between China and the United States and its allies.