Secretary of State Penny Wong will visit the Solomon Islands on her third trip to the Pacific since being sworn in.
The trip will be the first for an Australian minister after signing a Sino-Solomon security pact as China continues to push for a regional security agreement.
Senator Wong says her upcoming trip to New Zealand and the Solomons will strengthen Australia’s “close friendships and cooperation in our region.”
The foreign minister will meet with her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta, where regional security will be discussed alongside the country’s experience with First Nations foreign policy.
“Our countries are linked by the deepest bonds of friendship, shared values, history, and sacrifice,” said Senator Wong.
“As part of our discussions, we will consider ways to work together to make the most of the new energy and resources the Australian government is bringing to the Pacific.”
Senator Wong will then meet with Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and several of his ministers on Friday.
“We are committed to deepening our partnership with the Solomon Islands as we work together to address shared challenges and achieve our shared goals, including climate change,” she said.
“I look forward to discussing ways we can continue progressing on pandemic recovery, economic development, and labor mobility priorities, as well as addressing our shared security interests.”
The regional agreement has raised concerns among Australia and its allies, who argue that regional security should remain under the purview of the “Pacific family”.
The trip also comes before the Pacific Islands Forum in mid-July, when the regional security agreement is to be discussed, with countries like Fiji pushing for regional consensus.
New Zealand is working on a maritime security plan with the Solomons following its security deal with China.
During the weekend, New Zealand Defense Minister Peeni Henare met with Solomon Islands Minister of National Security Anthony Veke during the Shangri La Security Dialogue held in Singapore.
Indo-Pacific security remained a key focus in the dialogue with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the US Indo-Pacific defense policy conference. At the same time, Chinese Defense Secretary Wei Fenghe spoke about Beijing’s vision for Asia-Pacific.
Mr. Henare told the media outlet Newsroom that maritime safety was the top priority for the Solomons delegation.
“That was the main theme of our conversation, so I said, ‘Okay, how can we help?’ and that was creating the work plan I just described,” Mr. Henare said.
“We were going to make sure that they (China) knew our position on making the Pacific safe and supporting the independence of those sovereign nations in the Pacific. I’ve made that point very clear on several occasions.”