The Chinese foreign minister will pay a “milestone” visit to the Solomon Islands this week, the island nation said, after the two countries sealed a comprehensive security agreement last month.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit comes at a time when the United States and Australia are increasingly concerned about China’s intentions in the South Pacific.
The Solomon Islands government confirmed the visit to China in a statement on Monday – the day Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was sworn in.
Prime Minister Manseh Sogavare said the one-day visit by the Chinese foreign minister, led by a 20-member delegation, would be a “milestone” in bilateral relations.
Sogavar said he was looking forward to a productive engagement with Beijing, “an important development partner at a critical time in our history.”
Without mentioning the security agreement, the statement said that Chinese Foreign Minister Solomon would sign “several” agreements.
Washington and Canberra fear a security deal – the details of which have not been released – could lead to China gaining a military position in the South Pacific.
Earlier, a leaked draft of the Sino-Solomon Security Agreement included measures that would allow Chinese naval deployments to the Solomon Islands, some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Australia.
The Chinese minister will hold a joint press conference with Prime Minister Solomon and Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manel in Honiara one day.
No date has been set for the minister’s visit, scheduled for “this weekend.”
News of the visit comes ahead of Tuesday’s meeting of US, Japanese, Australian and Indian leaders at a “quadrilateral” summit in Tokyo aimed at countering China’s growing economic and military influence in the region.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)