Australia has been put on notice that it risks severing its close ties with Pacific nations if it allows China to undermine them.
Several prominent Solomon Islands leaders have come out to urge the Australian government to provide more aid in order to combat increasing Chinese influence.
Experts have warned that significant infrastructure contributions such as the $120m China funded National Stadium in the capital Honiara and increasing control over resource rich areas like mining companies as potential pieces of leverage over the small Pacific Islands state.
Now there’s another layer of influence China may be able to apply to the Solomons according to Celsus Talifilu, a former adviser to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who leaked an upcoming agreement that would see the foreign state allowed to send in police to protect their investments.
He argues that the deal would weaken Australia’s ties to the island, especially in terms of security.
“I was really shocked that this is happening to us. And this is a deal that could affect my children,” he told 60 Minutes.
“We have an arrangement with Australia -- they’ve always been here.
“Why do these things something that will only great problems, not solve problems?”
He warned that there would be dire consequences for Australia if it allowed its influence in the area to diminish.
“If war ever broke out in the Pacific, having control over the Solomon Islands would be a huge advantage,” Talifilu said.
“The country sits right in the middle of a shipping route between China, the United States and Australia.”
David Panuelo says he saw first hand how China tries to undermine sovereign governments during his time as the President of the Federated States of Micronesia.
“When they invite our nation to sign a certain agreement, these types of agreements are carved out already by them and if you don’t see the fine line in what you are trying to get into, it can sort of trap your nation,” he said.
He said that Chinese officials pressured his ministers to sign documents behind his back and even offered a cash bribe to the country’s Vice President.
“They call it gifts, but it does influence the decision making of people who are representing their nation and their citizens,” he said.
Mr Talifilu urged Australia to do more to ensure that it remains connected to the Solomon Islands, saying “it means that we are people from the same place, not someone else with a diverse set of values entering our space”.
“I think Australia should care, being the bigger brother in the Pacific, Australia has the duty to ensure the Pacific is a better place.”