Australian foreign minister arrives in Solomon Islands
Penny Wong's 1st visit to island nation after Honiara signed security deal with China
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Friday arrived in Solomon Islands on her first visit after the Pacific nation signed a security deal with China, local media said.
Following their arrival in Honiara, Wong met with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and other officials, local media outlet Solomon Times reported.
Ahead of her visit, Wong said she will discuss COVID-19 recovery, economic cooperation, climate change and security issues with the country's leadership.
Australia also announced to deliver 200,000 paediatric COVID-19 vaccine doses to the island nation on the request of Honiara's government.
“This is not the first time Solomon Islands has benefited tremendously from Australia's support, engagement and working partnership in the health sector. In fact, if not for Australia's significant support the impact of COVID-19 on our health systems and people would have been far worse,” Wong said in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry.
The vaccines will be administered to school children between ages 5-11.
Wong's visit comes amid changing geopolitics in the region where the US is cementing its “contain” China policy while Beijing is moving forward in striking bilateral and multilateral deals.
On Thursday, Wong with her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta said that they both agreed to work together as things have changed and the Pacific is a contested space.
Beijing signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands in April triggering criticism from New Zealand and Australia and their allies, including the US and Japan.
* Writing by Islamuddin Sajid