Solomon Islands refuse to choose sides between United States, China

AP - Susan Walsh

The Solomon Islands foreign minister said Tuesday that his nation had objected to the first draft of a US-Pacific partnership declaration because the Pacific territory was "not comfortable" with some indirect references to China.

Jeremiah Manele, Foreign Minister of the Solomons, a territory bordering France's New Caledonia, was quizzed by reporters in New Zealand about his country's reported qualms over the joint statement, signed in Washington last week.

"In the initial draft there were some references that we were not comfortable with," the foreign minister said.

These "put us in a position that we have to choose sides and we don't want to be placed in a position that we have to choose sides," Manele explained.

Asked if those references were to China, he replied: "Indirectly."

Manele said the United States and 14 Pacific islands meeting in Washington had found "common ground" in negotiations, allowing the Solomon Islands to sign the final declaration.

The United States has been the key player in the South Pacific since the end of World War II.

But in recent years China has asserted itself strongly through investment, police training and, most controversially, a security pact with Solomon Islands.

"The Indo-Pacific . . . should not be seen as a region of confrontation, of conflict, of war," Manele said.

(With AFP)

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