Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday arrived in the Solomon Islands, the first visit by an Australian leader in more than a decade as Western nations seek to rein in China’s influence in the Pacific.
The trip comes as the United States and its regional allies try to ensure that Pacific nations with diplomatic links to Taiwan do not severe those in favour of ties with Beijing.
The Solomon Islands is one of six Pacific countries to recognise Taiwan, a policy now in question after recent elections. China views Taiwan as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.
Morrison flew into the capital Honiara yesterday on his first overseas trip since winning re-election last month. He did not make any public comments on arrival, but has said the visit will show Australia’s commitment to the region.
“The Pacific is front and centre of Australia’s strategic outlook,” he said in a statement last week.
Morrison’s trip comes just a few days before a visit to the Solomon Islands by New Zealand deputy prime minister Winston Peters, who will also travel to Vanuatu this week.
Australia has historic ties with the Pacific, but China has raised its influence in the region in recent years.