China's foreign minister starts Pacific tour in the Solomons

Source: Associated Press

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and a 20-strong delegation arrived in the Solomon Islands Thursday at the start of an eight-nation tour.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Wang and the Chinese delegation are visiting amid growing concerns over Beijing's military and financial ambitions in the South Pacific.

China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands last month in a move that sent shock waves around the world.

That pact has raised fears that China could send troops to the island nation or even establish a military base there, not far from Australia.

The Solomon Islands and China say there are no plans for a base.

A draft document obtained by The Associated Press shows that Wang is hoping to strike a deal with 10 small Pacific nations during his tour.

The sweeping agreement covers everything from security to fisheries and is seen by one Pacific leader as an attempt by Beijing to wrest control of the region.

Meanwhile, the Media Association of Solomon Islands was calling on its members to boycott a news conference being held in the capital, Honiara, by Wang and his counterpart from the Solomon Islands, Jeremiah Manele.

That's because only selected media were invited to the event, and the schedule allowed for just a single question to be asked of Wang by China's state-owned broadcaster CCTV.

During his 10-day visit, Wang is also planning to make stops in Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.