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Worry About China, Solomon Islands Ties07/12 06:16

   

   BEIJING (AP) -- The new Solomon Islands prime minister is in China for a 
visit as Beijing and the strategic Pacific archipelago strengthen their ties.

   Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the Chinese 
capital on Friday after a stop in coastal Fujian province earlier this week.

   "Solomon Islands values its comprehensive and strategic relations with 
China," Manele told Xi in prepared remarks at the start of their meeting in the 
Great Hall of the People.

   China's influence increased significantly during the term of Manele's 
predecessor, with the country switching diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to 
China and striking a secretive security pact that has raised fears of China's 
security forces gaining a foothold in the region long dominated by the U.S., 
Australia and New Zealand.

   Those moves came at a time of major tensions between Washington and Beijing, 
and the Solomons' tighter ties with China are seen as undermining the influence 
of the U.S. and other traditional allies in the Western Pacific.

   Xi also met the prime minister of Vanuatu on Friday in back-to-back meetings 
with Pacific Island nations. China and Vanuatu are commemorating 42 years of 
diplomatic ties, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai said.

   Both visiting prime ministers said that China's development and poverty 
alleviation is a model for other countries to learn from.

   Manele thanked China for its support for the 2023 Pacific Games hosted by 
Solomon Islands, saying "the event was a success solely because of friends like 
China."

   He also said that his delegation had visited the police college in Fujian, 
where more than 100 officers from the Solomon Islands have taken part in 
training programs.

   The security pact has raised concerns of a Chinese naval presence in the 
region and the basing of ground troops that could challenge other countries' 
access to the region that lies close to Australia and over which Japan and the 
U.S. fought savage battles during World War II.

   While the Solomon's turn toward China has not been universally welcomed by 
the country's politicians, the May election of Manele and his Beijing visit 
suggest the country will continue in that direction.

   Manele earlier visited Australia and is also expected to travel to Japan in 
a bid for investment and development assistance for the country of 726,799 
people with a GDP of less than $2 billion that is heavily dependent on fishing, 
agriculture, forestry and mining.

 
 
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