Payne meets his Solomon counterpart | Northern Beaches Review

Foreign Secretary Marise Payne met her Solomon Islands counterpart Jeremiah Manele in Brisbane overnight.

It comes amid strained relations between Canberra and Honiara after the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with China.

A spokesperson for Senator Payne confirmed the meeting took place as Mr Manele was driving through Brisbane on Friday.

Commerce Minister Dan Tehan said he had been told it had been a “very productive conversation”.

“Talking about how we respect the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands but how we are very concerned about the security agreement with China,” Tehan told the ABC on Saturday.

Senator Payne’s spokesman said the pair had agreed that Australia was the Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice and had been reassured that the Pacific nation would not host a foreign military base.

Mr Tehan said the couple also discussed how the Morrison government should continue to work on the relationship.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned that any construction of a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands would be a “red line”.

But he did not specify what the consequences would be if the line was crossed.

Mr Tehan said the point raised was that no one saw a Chinese base in the Solomon Islands as being in the interest of the region.

“What we want to do is make sure we present a very strong case for why it’s extremely important that we don’t see the militarization of the Pacific islands,” Tehan said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was good that Senator Payne and Mr Manele had met.

“It was about time,” he said.

Labor has attacked the Morrison government’s handling of ties with the Solomon Islands, with deputy leader Richard Marles saying on Friday that repairing relations with the nation would be a priority for his party.

“It’s really important, obviously, that Australia presents itself as wanting to help the people of the Pacific in the challenges they face,” he said.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told the Solomon Islands parliament this week that the country was being treated like kindergarten students “walking around with Colt 45s in our hands” who needed to be watched.

Australian Associated Press

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