'Absolutely raises the threat': Morrison under fire for China presence in Pacific

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed fears of a military base being set up in the Pacific after security experts warned Chinese ships and aircraft could touch down in the Solomon Islands within weeks.

A draft of the agreement - which would allow China to send police and military personnel to the Solomon Islands "to assist in maintaining social order", while also opening the door for Chinese warships to stop in port there for "logistical replenishment" - leaked online last month.

It emerged this week the deal had been formally signed by Chinese and Solomons leaders, though the full details are yet to be publicly revealed.

"The Solomon Islands switched allegiances to China three years ago, that's how long this has been coming. You undercooked this big time, didn't you? It's embarrassing," Today host Karl Stefanovic asked Mr. Morrison.

"The Chinese government doesn't play by the same rules as other transparent liberal democracies and that means there are vulnerabilities in our region which we're very well aware of and have been working hard to ensure we can mitigate," the prime minister replied.

Earlier, deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said Australia had been "winning the strategic contest" against China for relations in the Pacific when Labor was in government.

"I would not have imagined that this government could have stuffed it up so badly that on their watch you would see this agreement being signed between China and Solomon Islands and it is definitely a watershed moment which absolutely raises the threat.

"(It) certainly raises my anxiety about the Chinese military presence in the region.

"But what that speaks to is a total failure of the Morrison government to make themselves the partner of choice."

Mr. Morrison attempted to discredit the deputy Labor leader, claiming he'd advocated for nations in the Pacific to deal with China.

Mr. Morrison has repeatedly said Beijing is not opening a military base in the Solomon Islands, however, reports emerged yesterday the Chinese military could arrive sooner than expected.

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported security experts have warned authorities to expect the fleets to arrive within the month, as the global superpower looks to capitalise on the caretaker period in Australian politics – which runs from the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly until the election result is clear – and match the rapid development of bases in the South China Sea.

Under a leaked draft security deal the Solomon Islands could allow Chinese naval ships to dock in the country and protect the safety of Chinese citizens and major projects.

Under a leaked draft security deal the Solomon Islands could allow Chinese naval ships to dock in the country and protect the safety of Chinese citizens and major projects.

China has denied its controversial security deal with the Solomon Islands lacks transparency, as an MP confirms the still-secret final agreement is "very close" to the leaked version that alarmed Australia and other Western allies.

Solomon Islands MP and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Relations chairman Peter Kenilorea Jr yesterday added to domestic criticism of the deal.

Australia and the US have publicly expressed concerns about the deal and the secrecy surrounding it.

"The Australian Government, the US Government has the same position in relation to Beijing and Taipei as the Solomon Islands government have," Mr. Morrison said.

"They're a sovereign government, they make their own decisions.

"They're not an extension of Australia, not a colony.

"I don't treat the Pacific family in that way but it doesn't mean there aren't vulnerabilities and pressures being placed by the Chinese government in ways we've seen in other parts of the world."


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