China has rejected Australia's concern over a security pact Beijing is planning with the Solomon Islands, instead questioning Canberra's behaviour in the region.
The Morrison government has expressed its concern after it emerged Australia's Pacific neighbour was part of a draft plan to potentially bring Chinese warships to Australia's doorstep.
"We don't want unsettling influences and we don't want pressure and coercion that we are seeing from China," Defence Minister Peter Dutton, who has been accused by Beijing of hyping the threat of war in the region, told Nine on Friday.
Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, who has been a staunch critic of the Morrison government's handling of China relations, admitted such a pact with the Solomon Islands would be "one of the most significant security developments that we have seen in decades.
"It's one that is adverse to Australia's national security interests."
China poses four questions to Australia
On Monday afternoon, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin suggested such concern was unwarranted and hinted there was a sense of irony in remarks made by Australia, which have also been echoed by the US.
He said such comments were "condescending", before posing a series of questions aimed to rubbish Australia's fears.
"Why are some individuals concerned about China-Solomon Islands cooperation when the government and the people of Solomon Islands genuinely welcome it?" Mr Wang asked.
"Who has been sending military aircraft and vessels right to others’ doorsteps and flex muscles for years that severely threaten relevant countries’ sovereignty and security?
"Who has been forming military circles that bring nuclear proliferation risks to the Pacific Ocean?
"And who has been deliberately hyping up tension and stoking bloc confrontation that cast a pall on regional peace and stability?"
Morrison to call on Pacific allies
Mr Wang said any attempt to jeopardise China's relationship with the Solomon Islands is "doomed to fail".
However Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has refused to kowtow to Beijing's demands and heed its warnings in the past, has reportedly asked Fiji and Papua New Guinea to convince the Solomon Islands to pull out of the deal, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
However Australia’s former ambassador to PNG and Lowy Institute, senior fellow Ian Kemish, said Australia must be careful not to be seen to be using Pacific nations to push back against a developing China.
“If we as a country behave in a way that suggests that our engagement with the region is only about containing China and if we project as if we’re treating the Pacific as a geostrategic lake, that’s not the right signal to send, and it’s not in our long-term interest to do that," he said.
Last year, in a battle of vaccine diplomacy with China in the region, Dr Tess Newton Cain, Project Lead at Griffith Asia Institute's Pacific Hub, told Yahoo News Australia it would be "intellectually baffling" and "strategically inept" if Australia's only driver behind its relationships in the region was competing with China.
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