Australia’s Response and Actions to the Solomon-China Security Pact

The expansion of China's power in the South Pacific Region became more apparent with the establishment of the Solomon-China security pact, which potentially allows for the presence of Chinese military bases in the Solomon Islands.

In 2019, the Solomon Islands cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan after 36 years and began engaging with China.. This newfound closeness led to various forms of cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands, aimed at expanding China’s influence in the South Pacific Region (Santoso et al., 2021). The expansion of China’s power in the South Pacific Region became more apparent with the establishment of the Solomon-China security pact, which potentially allows for the presence of Chinese military bases in the Solomon Islands. Naturally, this development caused turmoil and protests among Commonwealth nations in the South Pacific region and their allies (Panda, 2022). Australia, being one of the most influential Commonwealth nations in the region, vehemently opposed the formation of this security pact (Hammond, 2023). As a major power in the region, Australia perceives China’s increasing presence as a threat. China’s presence through this security pact will shift Australia’s geopolitical position as a security partner of the Solomon Islands. The Solomon-China security pact has opened up a new arena of geopolitical competition in the South Pacific Region (Kabutaulaka, 2022).

The Formation of the Solomon-China Security Pact Opens a New Arena of Geopolitical Competition in the South Pacific

The longstanding tensions between Australia and China have escalated over the years, ranging from the Huawei ban to prolonged conflicts involving defense, trade, cyberattacks, and more (Stevens, 2022). Furthermore, relations have become more complex with the establishment of the Solomon-China security pact, which has become a new arena for geopolitical competition in the South Pacific. The leaked security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands in April 2022 has had significant implications for the geopolitics of Pacific Island nations and Oceania. This bilateral security agreement marks the first known agreement with China in the region, providing Beijing with the possibility of deploying Chinese forces near crucial shipping lanes, located just 1,200 nautical miles from Australia (Hammond, 2023). The formation of this security pact will enable China to establish military bases with deployments of military personnel, armed police, and other law enforcement forces from China to the Solomon Islands (Kabutaulaka, 2022).

The security pact, as agreed upon, states that China may, according to its own needs and with the consent of the Solomon Islands, make ship visits for logistics replenishment, port calls, and transit in the Solomon Islands. China’s investments abroad could prompt the country to engage in foreign interventions, as evidenced by statements suggesting the use of relevant Chinese forces for large-scale projects and the protection of Chinese personnel in the Solomon Islands. (Kabutaulaka, 2022). Currently, China is also involved in police training in the Solomon Islands, previously guided by the Australian police. With a distance of less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia, China’s military presence and political influence along this island chain are significant threats to Australia’s ability to shape a strategic environment, consistent with its primary objectives outlined in Australian defense policy (Yee, 2023).

Australia, as one of the largest donors to the Solomon Islands since the 1970s and a close ally of the United States, naturally feels threatened by the existence of this security pact as it poses risks to national security and could affect its dominance in the South Pacific (Lall, 2022). Australia has provided significant assistance to the Solomon Islands through military cooperation. One notable instance is in 2003 when, following a request from the Solomon Islands government to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the major diplomatic group in the region, Australia led the Multinational Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). RAMSI remained operational for almost 14 years in the Solomon Islands, despite attempts by Sogavare to expel the mission whenever he was in power (Al Jazeera, 2022).

It can be seen that China’s attempt to expand its power through military cooperation via the formation of this security pact will create turmoil in the South Pacific region on a broader scale. Countries in this region will face dilemmas and be caught in the crossfire between the two major powers, the United States and China. Australia, as a significant influencer in the South Pacific and a U.S. ally, will also be threatened in its position considering the strategic location of the Solomon Islands, which could affect national security.

Australia’s Response to the Solomon-China Security Pact

As the most prominent Commonwealth member in the region, Australia has provided a firm response. At the time, Defense Minister Peter Dutton emphasized the importance of voicing opinions quickly to prevent potential consequences (Hammond, 2023). Australia expressed deep disappointment regarding the signing of the security cooperation between the Solomon Islands and China. Australia believes that the Pacific family is best suited to meet the security needs of the region. Through participation in RAMSI, the Pacific community will continue to support the security needs of the Solomon Islands and will continue to encourage the Solomon Islands to engage in regional dialogue and collaborate with the Pacific community before seeking security assistance from China under this agreement (Saselja, 2022).

Furthermore, various responses have been conveyed by Australia, such as statements from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison affirming a commitment to open dialogue with his counterpart, Manasseh Sogavare, stating that the Solomon Islands will not allow a Chinese military base or continued military presence. Additionally, a recent statement by Penny Wong indicated that the presence of this security pact would invite further regional contests in the future (Al Jazeera, 2023). Penny Wong also expressed that the Solomon Islands and China should provide clear transparency regarding their intentions to Australia and the region by promptly announcing the agreement so that the Pacific family can collectively consider its impact on collective security (Al Jazeera, 2023).

Various responses have been put forward to urge the Solomon Islands to reconsider its policy to form a security pact with China. However, because the Solomon Islands also have their own reasons based on national security interests, Australia’s response has not influenced the process of this security pact. The current response being advocated is more focused on urging transparency regarding the pact formed, based on the focus on regional security stability in the South Pacific Region.

Australia’s Actions through Its Foreign Policy towards the Formation of the Solomon-China Security Pact

Australia responded firmly to the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands in March 2022, leading to increased engagement with the Pacific Island nation. Initially, the Morrison government expressed displeasure, concerns, and disappointment over the Solomon Islands’ behavior, which was deemed to jeopardize security in the Pacific region. The Solomon Islands responded by affirming its sovereign right to protect national interests and enter into agreements with third parties without external interference. Australia-Solomon Islands relation worsened due to government differences. However, Australia recognized its actions following the election of Albanese in May 2022. With a meeting between Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in Canberra in October 2022, Australia intensified its efforts to approach the Solomon Islands with hopes of winning back the country’s preference from China and rebuilding the relationship (Caso & Pollard, 2023).

Efforts to engage with the Solomon Islands by Australia focus primarily on security and development aspects. It is not surprising that Australia’s engagement strategy emphasizes security partnerships and collaboration, given that the Solomon Islands formed a security pact with China. Since the arrival of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) in July 2003, Australia has established itself as the preferred security partner for the Solomon Islands. This role was strengthened with the 2017 Bilateral Security Agreement formed after civil unrest in Honiara (Caso & Pollard, 2023).

In November 2022, Australia took a significant step to restore relations with the Solomon Islands. The country committed to providing essential infrastructure in the Solomon Islands and supporting security efforts. This includes the construction of border posts and environmentally friendly patrols along the eastern and western borders of the provinces. Australia supports the security priorities of the Solomon Islands in preparation for the Pacific Games 2023 (Australian Government, 2023). Additionally, Australia provides the largest Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Solomon Islands, committing to build a 22 km power transmission line to reduce costs and create economic opportunities. Moreover, in a more concrete effort, Australia is pursuing the establishment of a Feminist Foreign Policy, offering a more holistic approach to aid provision and relationship building. This foreign policy will enable Australia to enhance peacebuilding efforts, secure relations with the Solomon Islands, and promote regional stability in the face of assertive Chinese behavior (Caso & Pollard, 2023).

Australia’s actions are not only through bilateral efforts as mentioned but also through evaluating regional efforts by improving the “Pacific Step-Up” strategy, which can support strategic dominance in the region (Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, 2023). Regional stability will also be maintained through strengthened interactions among countries in the region without requiring additional partners from outside, such as the formation of the Solomon-China pact.


China’s presence in the South Pacific, through the Solomon-China security pact, has raised concerns and provoked strong responses from countries in the region. China’s military expansion is viewed as a threat to security and may cause polarization due to rivalry between China and the United States. Australia, as the most influential country with a significant stake in the South Pacific region, also feels threatened given the strategic position of the Solomon Islands contributing to Australia’s national security. The formation of the security pact is also feared to shift Australia’s dominance and influence in the South Pacific region.

Therefore, Australia responded to the formation of this security pact with expressions of disappointment and rejection due to the anticipated negative impact. However, this firm rejection has turned into a strategy to restore relations with the Solomon Islands to mitigate China’s strong influence since the election of Anthony Albanese in 2022. Australia’s actions in the military aspect include continuing the existence of RAMSI, strengthened by the formation of the 2017 Bilateral Security Agreement. Australia’s foreign policy post the formation of the Solomon-China security pact is also manifested through the Feminist Foreign Policy strategy, offering a more holistic approach with aid provision and a focus on development. Moreover, not only bilaterally, but Australia also emphasizes regional cooperation by improving the “Pacific Step-Up” strategy to support strategic dominance in the region.

Rahma A. Khairunnisa
Rahma A. Khairunnisa
Undergraduate International Relations Student at Universitas Gadiah Mada, Indonesia. Interested in International Relation, Human Rights, and Education Studies. Currently works as a Human Resources Development at Dewan Mahasiswa Fisipol UGM and Teaching Volunteer at Gadjahmada Menginspirasi.