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Fears of US-Australia backed coup in Solomon Islands after it restores diplomatic ties with China

AUSTRALIA has been accused of provoking riots aiming to overthrow the government of the Solomon Islands after the South Pacific country cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and established relations with Beijing.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare blamed “foreign interference” on Friday for anti-government protests in the capital Honiara, during which parliament was stormed and police stations torched. Rioters also attacked Honiara’s Chinatown district.

According to the New York Times, the Solomon island of Malaita, which has maintained relations with Taiwan, is receiving direct foreign aid from the United States.

The newspaper cited Solomons-based researcher Mihai Sora, a former Australian diplomat, as saying that the Solomon Islands has been in “a heightened political tug of war.”

Mr Sogavare remained defiant on Saturday, insisting that the violence in the capital had been orchestrated by a minority with the “evil intention” of overthrowing him.

“It is very clear that the recent events were well planned and orchestrated to remove me as the prime minister for unsubstantiated reasons,” he said in a televised address.

“We will never bow down to the evil intention of a few people,” Mr Sogavare added.

Clean-up operations are now under way after the three days of rioting, which are believed to have caused 200 million Solomon Islander dollars (£18.6m) worth of damage and cost 1,000 jobs. 

Many food shops have been burnt down, raising fears of shortages.

The South Pacific is an area of concern for both the US and Australia, since four of the 15 countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan are in the region.

Efforts to block smaller nations from strengthening links with China have included the incitement of unrest and so-called “dollar diplomacy.”

Neither Washington nor Canberra has condemned the violence so far, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying that a troop presence there “does not indicate any position on the internal issues of the Solomon Islands.”

The deployment of Australian security forces to the country has raised eyebrows. A Global Times editorial said on Saturday that “it is not hard to imagine how easy it will be for an external force to wreak havoc there.

“The government of the Solomon Islands and their people know what is really going on there. It is also not hard for the outside world to know,” the newspaer charged, implying that Mr Morrison’s expression of neutrality masks tacit support for the riots.

Taiwan is the new focal point of the US cold war on China.

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