Solomons government says China's island lease 'unlawful'

By Jonathan Barrett SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Solomon Islands government says a contract signed by one of its provinces to lease the entire island of Tulagi to a Chinese company is unlawful and should be terminated. Details of the controversial long-term lease between Solomons' Central Province and China Sam Enterprise Group were made public shortly after the Pacific nation switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in September, which sparked a strong rebuke from the United States. Headquartered in Beijing, Sam Group is a technology, investment and energy conglomerate founded in 1985 as a state-owned enterprise.

Reuters October 25, 2019 06:11:31 IST
Solomons government says China's island lease 'unlawful'

Solomons government says Chinas island lease unlawful

By Jonathan Barrett

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Solomon Islands government says a contract signed by one of its provinces to lease the entire island of Tulagi to a Chinese company is unlawful and should be terminated.

Details of the controversial long-term lease between Solomons' Central Province and China Sam Enterprise Group were made public shortly after the Pacific nation switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in September, which sparked a strong rebuke from the United States.

Headquartered in Beijing, Sam Group is a technology, investment and energy conglomerate founded in 1985 as a state-owned enterprise.

Solomons Attorney General John Muria said the province and Chinese company were not legally able to strike such an agreement without government involvement.

"The agreement was not vetted by the Attorney General’s chambers before signing," Muria said in a statement issued on Thursday.

The agreement was "unlawful, unenforceable and must be terminated with immediate effect", Muria said.

China has in recent years expanded its financial and political influence in the Pacific, which had until then been a diplomatic stronghold for the United Sates and its regional allies since World War 2.

In a setback for self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, which China claims as a province with no right to state-to-state ties, Beijing won over two previous Taiwanese allies in the Pacific - the Solomon Islands and Kiribati - in September.

The Sam Group agreement, dated Sept. 22, purportedly offers wide-ranging powers to the Chinese conglomerate to develop infrastructure on Tulagi and surrounding islands.

Tulagi is a significant island that hosted American bases in World War 2 and is where Solomons' former capital city was located before being moved to the island of Guadalcanal.

A signatory to the agreement, Central Province Premier Stanley Manetiva, did not immediately respond to questions on Friday.

In a statement on its website, Sam Group said its representatives had met Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in early October during a state visit to China by a delegation from the Pacific island nation.

(GRAPHIC: Tug of war in the Pacific JPG - https://graphics.reuters.com/PACIFIC-SAMOA-CHINA/0100B0D30T6/PACIFIC1.jpg)

(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.