China requested that a 10-person plainclothes security detail armed with pistols, rifles, two machine guns and a sniper rifle be sent to the Solomon Islands late last year, leaked documents reveal .
The Guardian has received a copy of documents, dated December 3, 2021, in which China asked for security personnel to be allowed into the country to secure the Chinese Embassy in Honiara, following the November riots .
In a leaked memo in response to the request, also obtained by the Guardian, Solomon Islands’ permanent foreign secretary said he had “no objections” to China’s request because the nation of Pacific had been unable to guarantee the safety of Chinese embassy staff during the riots.
In its diplomatic note, China said the deployment of the security team was necessary given “the current security situation in the Solomon Islands”.
“The government of the People’s Republic of China has decided to send a plainclothes security team (10 people) with the necessary small arms and equipment to the Chinese Embassy in the Solomon Islands. The team will be responsible for internal security and necessary escort missions outside the Chinese Embassy,” the diplomatic note said.
The security team had to hold diplomatic passports and travel with the official status of “attache of the Chinese mission”.
The diplomatic request informed the Solomon Islands that Chinese personnel would bring with them weapons and equipment, including 10 9mm pistols, 10 rifles, two machine guns and a sniper rifle, as well as other equipment, including radios, satellite phones, infrared thermal cameras, 10 daggers. , 10 electric batons, an electronic listening device, gas masks and metal detectors.
According to the leaked memo from the Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Secretary Collin Beck said he had “no objections” to the security team’s presence in the country for a “period of six twelve months”, although the Guardian was unable to confirm whether or not the security team arrived in Honiara.
“The request stems from the last three days of [sic] The November 24-26 riots in which the Chinese community in the Solomon Islands were hardest hit by looting and violence among other undertakings,” Beck wrote.
The Solomon Islands saw days of riots and violence in November, fueled in part by anger over Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s decision to shift the country’s diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China. However, other issues, including tensions between two of the country’s largest provinces and economic difficulties, were also at play.
Chinese-owned businesses were targeted during the riots and many buildings in the capital’s Chinatown of Honiara were set on fire.
“My ministry during this period could not guarantee the safety of the embassy and staff. As the host country, we had an obligation to protect all embassies, including [the] Chinese Embassy, in this regard, we have no objection to the request,” Beck wrote in the memo.
Beck added that while “unfortunately this sets a precedent”, that “China is a special case, noting that public debate was and remains directed against China’s interests in the country by certain segments of our country’s population. “.
During its deployment, China has donated riot gear to the Solomon Islands, including 1,500 each of the following: bulletproof vests, bulletproof armor plates, riot helmets, riot shields, stab-proof vests, electric batons, anti-glare lamps, tear gas canisters and first aid kits, as well as raincoats and uniforms.
The Solomon Islands government confirmed the veracity of the documents in a statement released late Tuesday, as it warned the public ‘to be vigilant against fake news or misinterpreted comments on social media forums following leaks. of documents containing official correspondence between the Government of the Solomon Islands and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Honiara”.
“There is no need to worry,” the government statement said.
The Solomon Islands have been at the center of a geopolitical storm in recent weeks after a leaked draft security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands, which outlines the process by which the Pacific country would seek help from Chinese police, armed police, military personnel and other armed forces.
According to the draft text, the agreement would allow China “to carry out ship visits, conduct logistical resupply and stopover and transition in the Solomon Islands”, raising concerns that China could not secure a naval base less than 2,000 km from Australia. East Coast.
Since the leak of the draft deal, Sogavare has sought to assuage concerns by saying his country has no intention of allowing a Chinese naval base. He added that it is “very insulting to be called unfit to manage our sovereign affairs”.
In a sign of Canberra’s concerns over deepening security cooperation between the Solomon Islands and China, an Australian government minister was due to fly to Honiara on Tuesday evening for two days of talks.
International Development and Pacific Minister Zed Seselja said he would raise concerns about the draft security agreement.
He said Australia had “held firmly as a partner and friend of the Solomon Islands” for many years and believed that “the Pacific family will continue to meet the security needs of our region”.