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China denies posing threat to Australia in South Pacific

BEIJING'S engagement with South Pacific island nations poses no threat to Australia, Chinese ambassador to Canberra Xiao Qian said today.

Writing in the Australian Financial Review, Mr Xiao rejected claims that China will establish a military foothold in the Solomon Islands following the completion of a bilateral security pact.

“The co-operation between China and the South Pacific island countries is conducive to people’s well-being on both sides, and regional prosperity and stability, and will by no means threaten Australia’s security,” the ambassador said.

“China’s rise should not be seen as a threat to Australia,” he added, making no specific mention of the Solomon Islands.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose conservative government is seeking a fourth term in elections next week, said that he disagreed with the ambassador that “Chinese government interference in the Pacific is of no consequence,” telling reporters: “I think it’s of great consequence.”

Australia and its allies, including the United States, claim that the China-Solomons pact could result in a Chinese naval base being established less than 1,200 miles from Australia.

However, both Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and the Chinese government has denied any such plans exist.

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