25 March, 2023: The pact has disturbed the US, Australia and Taiwan among other nations. Why? Read the ReferencePepper.
Yoshimasa Hayashi, the foreign minister of Japan, is currently on his first trip to the Solomon Islands, where he spoke with its Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare about international security.
The foreign minister also stated that Japan is "closely monitoring" the security agreement that was reached between the Solomon Islands and China last year during his five-day trip to the Southern Pacific.
Last year, in April 2022 China and Solomon Islands signed a security agreement. This agreement gave China the right to dock their ships on the island.
So what, you may ask? Why would anyone have a problem with that?
The World of International Politics is looking at it differently.
But, before we start, it's important to know a bit about the Nation around which this news is all about. know a bit about Solomon Islands before we get into other details.
The Solomon Islands is a sovereign country located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Papua New Guinea.
It is made up of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands and atolls (Atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, island, or series of islets formed by the accumulation of coral debris and sand on the rim of a submerged volcanic crater) . Honiara is the capital city of the Solomon Islands, and the official language is English, although many residents speak Solomon Islands Pijin, a creole language.
The country has a population of around 700,000 people and its economy is primarily based on agriculture, fishing, and forestry.
The Solomon Islands gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1978 and is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Pacific Islands Forum.
What is the deal?
As per this deal, on request of Solomon Islands, China would to send its “police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces” or if China feels that the safety of its projects and personnel in the islands are at risk. Basically, this gives an excuse to China rto send their troops to Solomon Islands whenever they feel like.
It also provides for China’s naval vessels to utilise the islands for logistics support.
But why Solomon Islands of all the places?
A few reasons which make Solomon Islands interesting for China:
- More control in the Pacific region and advantage over Taiwan and US-
The Solomon Islands was one among the six Pacific island states which had official relations with Taiwan. Out of the 6, Kribati and Solomon Islands are with China since 2019 while the remaining 4 are close to the US. China would want as many allies.
The islands in the Pacific are strategically located for China to position themselves between America’s allies and military bases in the Pacific islands and Australia.
2. China will get control over Solomon Islands Exclusive Economic Zone1 (EEZ) -
With this deal, China also gets access to the vast EEZ of Solomon Islands.
Now, what is EEZ?
NewzPepper explained Territorial waters and High Seas in its earlier article:
Let us explain Exclusive Economic Zone1 (EEZ) briefly to help you understand what China tends to gain from this.
An Exclusive Economic Zone1 or “EEZ” is an area of the ocean, generally extending 200 nautical miles (230 miles) beyond a nation's territorial sea, within which a coastal nation has jurisdiction over both living and nonliving resources.\
Now don't confuse this with the Territorial Waters which follow the 12 Nautical Mile rule (explained in the article link above). The exclusive economic zone is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea.
Picture source: wikipedia
The concept of an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was adopted through the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Under international law, within its defined EEZ, a coastal nation has:
- sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;
- jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:
(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;
(ii) marine scientific research;
(iii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment;
And there are more….
Solomon Islands has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.58 million square kilometers, making it the second largest in the Pacific region.
So now you understand China’s interest and advantage with this deal.
3. The islands are rich in timber and such undeveloped mineral resources as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold. With a developed Nation like China as a partner these resources could be extracted and produced optimally and benefit both the Nations.
Who all are unhappy?
Other nations especially US, Australia, Japan and of course Taiwan are concerned due to China's increasing influence in Oceania2. While, at the face of it, the pact focuses on boosting the Solomon Island's national security capacity and includes cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, some countries fear that the agreement will destabilize the South Pacific and allow China to extend its influence in the region.
Oceania2 (sometimes Oceanica), as per World Atlas, is a region in the Pacific Ocean consisting of 14 independent countries and 8 dependencies. Approximately 43 million people live in Oceania with nearly three quarters in the countries of Australia and New Zealand.
Picture source: World Atlas
After this agreement, Taiwan and Solomon Islands also ended their diplomatic relationship.
China and Taiwan have a long standing issues.
The link to the article below will give you insight on the history of the main issue between the two.
The plan has alarmed the United States and Australia. They see Beijing as a threat attempting to increase its power in the Indo-Pacific area.
The United States and its allies are attempting to counter China's influence in the region, which could lead to further competition for influence in Oceania.