Worst fears confirmed in Solomons

The ABC is carrying the story of the latest verbal missile thrown at Australia from the Solomons:

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister has launched a tirade in parliament, suggesting Australia and its allies are deliberately trying to undermine his government, criticising the Western response to Russia’s invasion and praising China’s treatment of Christians.

Manasseh Sogavare has also ratcheted up his criticism of civil society groups in Solomon Islands, suggesting that they are being manipulated by foreign countries and declaring they have “fallen prey to the Western world”.

The Prime Minister’s furious denunciation of the West — which was delivered to the parliament of Solomon Islands on Tuesday — has consolidated fears in Canberra about the trajectory of Mr Sogavare’s government, with one official telling the ABC the leader is becoming increasingly autocratic and hostile to Australia after signing a security pact with China.

Civil society groups in Solomon Islands have criticised the security pact, and say they are concerned by the prospect of Chinese troops or police entering Solomon Islands to suppress future protests.

But Mr Sogavare told parliament those activists were “racists” and “bigots” deeply hostile to China who were being manipulated by “foreign masters”.

“What we are concerned with … is the glaring hypocrisy which bleeds through the strategies employed by some of our partners, working with some of their agents on the ground, to give the government a hard time for non-justifiable reasons,” he said.

Mr Sogavare also appeared to mock Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who referred to Solomon Islands as a “little Cuba” after news of the draft security treaty broke.

That seemed to be a reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the United States put up a naval blockade to prevent the Soviet Union from building nuclear missile silos in Cuba, close to US shores.

Mr Sogavare said the USSR was “not the aggressor” during the 1962 crisis and drew a comparison to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

“There [are] two sides to every situation we see happening in the world today, including the Ukraine crisis, where the Western world is trying to get every nation to condemn,” he said.

“There [are] two sides to every story.”

He also defended China, saying there were “no beggars” on the streets of its major cities, unlike in the West.

Some Solomon Islands MPs and civil society groups have criticised the Chinese government’s intensifying and repeated crackdowns on Christians under President Xi Jinping.

But Mr Sogavare said the faith was “thriving” in China because believers followed the rules set by government.

“I don’t know where these people are coming from, but talking about Christian values … there are more than 120 million real practising Christians in China. Our own churches? 500,000. Half a million,” he said.

“This is more serious practising Christians in China than the entire population of the Pacific Island nations including Australia and New Zealand put together. Yes, there are rules. There are restrictions.”

“But Christianity is thriving because they obey the authorities.”

Mr Sogavare also seemed to latch onto a piece written by an Australian analyst which suggested that the federal government might need to launch an invasion of Solomon Islands if China moved to set up a military base in the country.

No government figure in Australia has publicly raised the prospect of invasion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described a Chinese military base as a “red line” for Australia and the United States. However, he declined to lay out exactly what he meant by that when pressed by journalists.

Mr Sogavare seemed to suggest that option was being contemplated in Australia, saying Solomon Islands had received a “touching warning of military intervention”.

“In other words, we are threatened with invasion. Now that’s serious,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Minister Marise Payne responded to Mr Sogavare’s attack by saying Australia was “deeply committed” to the Pacific.

“We respond in times of need, whether that is to natural disasters, economic and health shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic, or to civil unrest of the kind that took place in Solomon Islands late last year,” they said.

“We support our Pacific family and always will.”

Well, that’ll help.

As repeatedly warned, if a Chinese military presence is allowed to develop in the Pacific, then microstates will begin a political transformation from democracies to autocratic satraps that reflect the system of their political patronage.

This is not remotely controversial. Since WWII, it is precisely what has occurred under US hegemony.  Change the hegemon and we will see little Xi’s popping up everywhere.

The playbook for tyranny is so well understood that there’s a Netflix series about it. Demonise a foreigner. Persecute civil society. Militarise the state. Voila! A little China.

The specter of something awful is rising. As the Sogavarre regime ramps its rhetoric, it has three goals:

  • To damage the Morrison Government during an election campaign for revenge and squeeze money out of Labor afterward.
  • To paralyse Australians hung up on post-colonial sentiments. That’s working a treat.
  • To inflame domestic tensions against Australian security forces on the ground. If that works then the Sogavarre regime will seek to substitute the Australian deployment of police with its own private army of Chinese paramilitaries. Overnight, the Solomons will be an autocracy and Beijing will be the “primary security partner of choice”.

This is the soft power reason why the deployment of the Chinese military in the Pacific IS Australia’s “red line”.

The hard power reason was summed up by Mick Ryan, a retired major general who served in the ADF for more than 35 years:

The Solomon Islands, as a 2016 Sydney Morning Herald story highlights, sits astride very important shipping lanes from the Australian east coast. Australia derives massive incomes from exports such as coal and natural gas, among other commodities, which are shipped from our east coast ports to points further north. The ability to monitor and potentially interdict this shipping by naval and airborne assets out of the Solomon Islands would pose a significant threat to our security and prosperity.

Sitting off the coast of eastern Australia, Chinese intelligence gathering facilities will monitor all military bases on the east coast, as well as the movements of aircraft and naval vessels. This massively simplifies the Chinese capacity to interfere with even day to day training and complicates Australian efforts to achieve even a modicum of operational security about our more sensitive military capabilities.

It gets worse. Much of Australia’s connectivity with the world passes through undersea telecommunications cables. Some of the most important ones, such as the Australia-Japan cable, Hawiaki Nui cable to Hawaii, and the Japan-Guam-Australia South cable pass through the waters of the Solomon Islands. Any Chinese base in the Solomon Island makes it more likely the Chinese will seek to interfere with these cables. The Chinese, observing how the Ukrainians have leveraged their terrestrial communications to influence global opinion, are certain to target these important submarine cables in the future.

This is gunboat diplomacy. Winning the war without firing a shot by creating a fait accompli.

A Chinese military presence in the Pacific must be stopped before it starts. It is not good enough to invest, persuade or counterbalance against it. Once it is loose in the region, then it will grow like cancer until one day in the not too distant Australia will wake in fright to find a Chinese aircraft carrier parked off Bateman’s Bay and its democracy gone.

Whatever it takes and niceties are a long second.

Australians get it:

The Chinese security pact with Solomon Islands has sparked widespread concern among voters about the prospect of a military base on the islands, leading 72 per cent of voters to say they are concerned or very concerned about the agreement.

Only 21 per cent said they were unconcerned about the regional deal when asked in an exclusive survey conducted by research company Resolve Strategic for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Does the self-censoring ABC?

Houses and Holes
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Comments

  1. The Travelling PhantomMEMBER

    “Mr Sogavare also seemed to latch onto a piece written by an Australian analyst which suggested that the federal government might need to launch an invasion of Solomon Islands if China moved to set up a military base in the country.”
    yea the problem is DLS not him opening to another force and not being neutral

  2. I must admit that I think the problem in the world right now is that people are not listening to both sides. The only way to de-escalate these things is to have people sit down and listen to legitimate or otherwise concerns and take steps toward finding a solution that works for both parties. The Solomon Islands PM is clearly using excuses to pivot toward China and is definitely moving in an autocratic manner, but he can use hit pieces like the invasion prospect to feed his populace lies about potential threat from Australia. I suspect most SI people understand it’s rubbish and you’d hope we have enough credibility there still that people will see through it, but like any lie repeated often enough, people may start to believe it.

    • Goldstandard1MEMBER

      You know why though Gav? The last 20 years has been a whole lot of head nodding and “understanding both sides” as the powers get stronger and stronger. Have you noticed everyone’s a bit angry these days? Covid brought forth a time of ‘let’s get our sh!t together and look after number 1’ metality whether that be individual or country. So yeah, I suggest the time of globalisation is over for now and it’s about suring up one’s own crumbs. It’s sad but it comes with choas.

      • Jumping jack flash

        “So yeah, I suggest the time of globalisation is over for now”

        You say it like we can just decide to turn off the globalisation switch and go back to how it was before.
        It’ll take a decade to rebuild what we pulled apart and shipped off.

        Do we have that long to flounder around?
        This move by China seems to indicate that we don’t. We’ve been caught with our pants down and our proverbials in the pie.

        There are only a couple of options now and we had better be pretty careful which ones we choose.
        Which brings me back to the calibre of our leaders and available leaders, to be able to make those decisions correctly.

    • Gav, a large slab of his populace don’t “accept” him, which is why he’s playing this thing up as an excuse for China to waltz in and prop his gov up.

  3. “Australians get it:”

    Nah, they wouldn’t get it, it could be a complete furphy and they would accept holus bolus just as they did with “the boat people are invading us, they’re throwing their children overboard, reds under the beds, muslims are gunna slit your throat while you sleep” etc, etc. “Security” has been the go to scream for LNP govs since forever and the public have generally wet their pants and starting crying “please protect us!”

    Sogavarre’s latest shows him as being potentially dangerous to the Solomons in a democracy and sovereignty sense.

    If we are in any danger over the long term on this, most of the blame can be laid at the feet of the LNP, but nearly every gov for the last 30 yrs has ignored the pacific to a large degree.

    You sow what you reap

  4. chuckmuscleMEMBER

    “Demonise a foreigner. Persecute civil society. Militarise the state. Voila! A little China.” sounds like vic under dan andrews

  5. Soga’s reasoning is too grab-bag to be respectable – he seems to be leaning towards trying to secure his regime more than securing the SI.

    Why?

    SI has no regional security threats, as they are under the ANZUS banner, and the SI populace are largely happy enough about that – better the flawed liberal empire than the flawed illiberal empire…

    But what has Soga gone and done? Claimed security issues and introduced his country AND his region to the CCP’s illiberal empire. Completely unnecessary, unless you have a domestic agenda, which I suspect he does…tinpot ambitions?

    More? You can’t just play the sovereignty card, either. Sovereignty amongst other sovereigns has its limits, just as neighbourly rights have limits. If your neighbours think you’ve introduced the Mafia to their neighbourhood because you’ve invited them to stay long-term at your house then don’t be surprised if they say you’ve over-stepped your sovereign rights and take proportionate actions…

    (And, no, Ukraine’s consideration of joining NATO isn’t the same, as Ukraine has legitimate concerns about its regional security and wanted to join a defensive pact against Russia, whereas the SI does not have regional security issues. Further, Russia had already proven its untrustworthiness after WW2, and unnecessarily ‘felt threatened’ by Ukraine’s defensive considerations…as if the rain has the right to feel threatened and offended because a person wants to buy an umbrella…ridiculous).

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      For Solomon Islands, the ‘security threat’ comes internally from Malaita. Australia have safeguarded the Solomon Islands government until 2017. When Australia left, they gradually switched allegiance to China.

  6. You got a call out in this morning’s Crikey missive.

    Sogavare was clearly referring to you, so MB has some punch.

    That is going to get some people thinking.

  7. There are some positives arising from this SI deal.
    The first is a sense of urgency, and this is important, things need to happen but first we need agreement that “things need to happen”
    Planning for a different world. So much (all) of our post WW2 military planning suggests the war will be fought a long way from our shores, it was always going to be a war where we could inflict damage on the enemy but sleep safe in our beds each night. But guess what our would-be adversaries didn’t like our ideas’ of a “fair war”
    Militarization and the development of solutions uniquely suited to the situation: (This is our chance to prove that Aussies are an Inventive bunch while those damn Chinese are just a bunch of second rate copiers) Lets back ourselves, back our engineers and scientists, back our factory workers, back our defense personnel, back our vision and build something significant (yea F’ significant, lets build something awesome!)
    Let’s let the Solomon’s be the cause of this revitalization…..who know we might find that we’re actually good at it.

    • Hmmm no comments
      Interesting!
      maybe MB is populated by Aussies who already know everything they need to know about China’s offensive and defensive military capabilities. Oh well what was it that my English teacher used to say ….”casting pearls before swine”

  8. cZ0mzqFILC8zoVHqMEMBER

    You realize that the Chinese have already successfully landed a probe on Mars? I am entirely certain that they do not need to occupy the Solomons to place Canberra in jeopardy.
    As to threatening Aus. trade routes, MB takes pains to point out that they are your only customer and so have little incentive to interdict LNG tankers already on the way to their depots. I suppose they may threaten to sink every LNG shipment not at sea.

  9. Jumping jack flash

    Sounds like the global political climate is changing. We all said that the US would lose its grip one day, buried underneath trillions upon trillions of debt dollars with no way out, except to print more.

    Now for whatever absurd reason they are attacking the very debt their economy is built upon in some weird spasm of “economic righteousness”.

    “Hey wait a minute, there’s a ton of debt which we created that’s being spent and that’s causing inflation… *checks book* The book says to raise interest rates in response to inflation. Book was written in 1800.. [when debt was only used sparingly for building productivity] Oh well, I’m sure the book is right and I’m sure because our economy is the greatest on the planet that means our economy is an exemplary pillar of economic virtue, what else could it be? Lets raise interest rates then.”

    Perhaps China is flexing?

  10. So if china invades Tawian, and it’s war doesn’t that mean usa will just take the solomon Islands. Bug rusk for them to take chinas side

  11. Sogavare sounds desperate just parroting anti “western” narratives as per Russian & Chinese propaganda departments. He’s definitely using the dictators playbook eg accusing locals of being controlled by foreign forces etc, next comes the police/army.

  12. they already building airstrips etc “for commercial reasons” …. the ScoMoFo redline is a little like the Obama redline – been crossed and in the rearview already

  13. From abc
    “Peter Dutton awards US company $2b contract to develop unmanned navy submarines

    An American company, which only established an office in Australia in March, has been awarded a $2 billion contract to develop uncrewed submarines for the navy.

    Defence Minister Peter Dutton has announced Defence and the Anduril company will co-fund a program to design, develop and manufacture Extra Large Autonomous Undersea Vehicles locally.

    The project will draw on expertise that led to the development of the unmanned “Loyal Wingman” aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force. “

  14. I have to ask why this perspective has not been applicable to – all the ME wars – cough … preemptive strikes or any political machinations like Lula in Brazil et al. Additionally I would have thought the points Hudson brought up about using the IMF to push a neoliberal sociopolitical agenda, which is, by any other name a attempt to rule other nations vicariously through financial means and anti democratic e.g. privatize and open up to international investors [aka the Atlantic nations] any state or commons assets so they can be administrated by the market.

    BTW the whole religious aspect is ridiculous when when though of from the separation of church and state lens, lest some forget the attempted Christification by the Dominantists during Bush Jr years [after he politicized churches for his political agenda contra the agreement of the past that no one would do so] or Trumps dalliances with the Mystic for profit Evangelists in the U.S. for personal political market share gain [empty vassals to be filled with whatever their leaders fill them with].

    With that said many Pacific Island nations have decades of experience with being treated to the economic pillaging from Atlantic nations for short term profit for some C-suite executives and absentee investors, so berating them for exercising their ****Freewill**** to sign contracts with others seems to be a massive contradiction in the Libertarian Economic rule book.

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