Chinese company eyeing Solomon Islands deep water port

Canberra, Australia (AP) – A Chinese state-owned company is in talks to buy a deepwater port and a World War II airstrip in the Solomon Islands to buy a forestry plantation amid persistent concerns that China The South Pacific wants to establish a naval foothold in the country. ,

The Australian Broadcasting Corp reported on Monday that a delegation from China Forestry Group Corp visited the plantations covering much of Columban Island in 2019, showing little interest in the trees, with questions about the length of the pier and the depth of the water. were asked.

The board of Colombangara Forest Products Ltd., the takeover target known as KFPL, which is owned by Taiwanese and Australian shareholders, warned Australia of “risk/strategic threats” to Australia from such sales in May to the newly elected Australian government. was given, ABC reported.

ABC said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wrote back to the board last week saying it was “not interfering”.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s office told The Associated Press that Australia continues to engage with KFPL on a potential sale.

Australia’s High Commissioner to Honiara Lachlan Strahan “is engaging regularly with the management of KFPL and will continue to do so,” Wong’s office said in a statement.

“We value our position as the Solomon Islands’ first security and development partner of choice, and we remain committed to working together to address our shared challenges,” the statement said.

KFPL President Matthew English said in a statement that he “cannot comment on any business matter in relation to KFPL.”

A KFPL official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to make public comment, said the board wanted the Australian government to facilitate an offer or offer from an Australian company.

Concerns from the US and its allies over China’s growing influence in the South Pacific intensified this year when China and Solomon signed a bilateral security agreement that allowed the Chinese military to move less than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) off Australia’s northeast coast. Raised fears of presence.

Australia already has a security pact with Solomons and Australian police have been maintaining peace in the capital Honiara since riots late last year.

Solomon’s Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware insisted that China would never be allowed to establish a military base in his country.

His office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Solomon’s lawmaker Silas Tausinga, whose voter is near Columban, said China had a strong ambition to keep military assets in Solomon.

“Absolutely, Australia should be concerned about it,” Tausinga told ABC.

China’s influence in the Solomons has been growing rapidly since 2019, when Honiara switched it from Taiwan to Beijing.

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