The Solomons-China 2022 security deal: extraterritoriality and the perils of militarisation in the Pacific Islands

Jon Fraenkel, Graeme Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    A security deal struck between the Solomon Islands and China in April 2022 has been depicted as the precursor to the establishment of a Chinese naval base in the Pacific. Fed by the proximity of an Australian federal election, these fears have stimulated lurid images in the Australian press of Beijing's aircraft carriers being stationed off Brisbane's coast creating a Pacific version of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In this paper, we examine the provisions of the ‘framework agreement’, explore its rationale and consider the likelihood that the predicted naval base eventuates. We also investigate Chinese extraterritoriality on the global stage and Chinese commercial activity in the Solomons since the switch in diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 2019. We argue that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signed the deal primarily in response to domestic pressures, in particular the danger of a repeat of major riots that took place in the capital in November 2021. The most pressing risk is not Chinese warships or nuclear missiles stationed in Honiara, but repression to handle urban unrest without the restraint required of Australian, Papua New Guinean, Fijian or New Zealand police officers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)473-785
    JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

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