Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern expressed their concern about China’s interest in the Solomon Islands.
During a telephone conversation Tuesday morning, the couple discussed Beijing’s commitment to a security agreement with the Pacific country.
A draft agreement between Solomon Islands and China that could provide Beijing with a military presence in the country surfaced online last week.
According to the discussion, Mr. Morrison and Ms. Arden shared their concerns about any actions that undermine security and stability in the Pacific.
This comes after Mr Morrison denied that he threw the ball at Australia’s interaction with the Pacific.
“Absolutely not. We were aware of the risks across the Pacific, ”he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
“The reports we have seen are not a surprise to us and are a reminder of the constant pressures and threats posed in our region by our own national security.”
But New Zealand Defense Secretary Pini Henare, who was in Australia for meetings when reports emerged, said he and his colleague Peter Dathan were caught unawares.
“We were both surprised because the information we received did not quite match that,” he said.
“We knew there were some problems with China, but the draft agreement that came online surprised me and even Minister Dathan.”
New Zealand Foreign Minister Nana Mahuta has arrived in Fiji to discuss the proposed deal with Pacific leaders.
Asked whether Marise Payne should do the same, opposition leader Anthony Albanese remained reticent.
“Well, it’s a government affair,” he told ABC.
“But what they have to do, I will say it, whether they do it physically or virtually, is participate in a full diplomatic effort with all our neighbors in the Pacific.”
Solomon Islands opposition leader Matthew Weil said Monday that he had previously failed to warn Australia against China.
“I also told the Australian High Commissioner and officials that it was approaching, even last year – all the signs were there and the Australian government did nothing about it – so I’m very disappointed with this Australian government,” he told ABC.