Australia focuses on Solomons relationship

November 04, 2022 11:08 AM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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Australia and China appear to be jostling for the friendship of the Solomon Islands with major equipment donations to its police force.

More than $1 million of weapons and equipment to Solomon Islands police was announced by the federal government this week, as part of a push to strengthen the force.

The donation included 60 MK18 rifles and 13 vehicles as well as specialist training to officers.

On Friday, China unveiled its own donation of two water cannon trucks, vehicles and motorcycles to the Solomon Islands police force. 

Yet Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles insists Australia is not trying to outcompete China when it comes to the island nation's friendship.

He said all countries in the Pacific are free to have the relations they want with any country. 

"We've just got to focus on our own relationship with the Solomon Islands and indeed with all the countries of the Pacific," he told ABC radio on Friday.

"I genuinely do believe that if we are present and if we are engaged with the countries in the Pacific, they'll want to work with us."

Mr Marles said Australia was a "natural partner" for the Pacific, particularly on security, and the government was focused on deepening the relationship with those nations. 

"The Pacific ... is really aware that there is a change and there is a focus being placed upon them," he said. 

"We've been working with the Solomon Islands police force over a very long period of time, I'm confident that if we do that we will be the natural partner of choice."


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