By Invitation

South Pacific: No longer a backyard just for Australia

Solomons, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea – all offer tempting targets for China as it challenges Australia’s influence in its neighbourhood and America’s wider regional pre-eminence

Solomon Islands Prime Pinister Manasseh Sogavare (left) and China's ambassador to the Solomon Islands Li Ming attend the opening ceremony of a China-funded national stadium complex in Honiara, on April 22, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
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Australia's Liberal-National government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison had hoped to use the country's fraught relations with China to win votes in the general election on May 21. Since early this year Mr Morrison and his ministers have tried to paint their Labor opponents as soft on China and unable to defend Australia's interests in the bitter quarrels that have arisen over the past five years between Canberra and Beijing, and which have escalated sharply under Mr Morrison's leadership.

But that backfired in the second week of the six-week election campaign when news broke that the Solomon Islands had signed a security agreement with China under which Chinese police and military personnel could be deployed to the South Pacific nation to help keep order and protect Chinese interests there.

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