Solomon Islands new PM visits Australia for first international trip

The new prime minister of the Solomon Islands has visited Australia for his first overseas trip in office. It comes amid questions over whether the Pacific island nation will maintain close ties with China.

Jeremiah Manele held talks with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Canberra on Wednesday.
Australia says they agreed to continue cooperating to provide high-quality infrastructure to the Solomon Islands.

The two prime ministers also agreed to strengthen the police force in the islands to reduce dependence on "external partners" for security.

Albanese said after the meeting that the two countries share a region, an ocean and a history of cooperation.
He added that Australia is the partner of choice for the Solomon Islands and they do not take it for granted.

Manele declared his intention to consider taking the two countries' ties to the next level.

He said the security partnerships of the Solomon Islands, including those with China, are domestically focused. He also said that the country is trying to address internal security challenges, adding he acknowledges and appreciates that China and Australia also have security strategic interests.

Manele entered office in May. His predecessor Manasseh Sogavare deepened the country's relationship with China, establishing bilateral diplomatic ties in 2019. The moves raised concern in the US and Australia over Beijing's growing influence in the region.