Scott Morrison accused of complacency after Solomon Islands signs security deal with China

Scott Morrison has been accused of complacency after the Solomon Islands signed a security deal with China.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare confirmed the deal in parliament on Wednesday, saying the pact would not hurt or undermine peace in the region.

He said its purpose was to increase trade, education and fishery opportunities – but he opposed the idea of allowing China to set up a military base.

But federal Labor says the move is a security risk and has accused Morrison of acting “too little, too late”.

“It has serious strategic implications and has serious negative consequences for Australia’s security,” Labor’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Penny Wong told The Latest on Tuesday.

“Mr Morrison talks a big game but on his watch we see this development, we see this agreement being signed.

“It didn’t manage to head this off, it didn’t manage to send the foreign minister to the Solomon Islands and now what we see is a situation where our region is less secure and the risks to Australia are greater, all on Scott Morrison’s watch.”

Morrison on Wednesday defended his decision not to send the foreign minister to the Solomon Islands.

“I’m very conscious of how visits are perceived within the Pacific. This was the right calibrated way to address this issue with the prime minister,” he said.

“One of the things you don’t do in the Pacific is you don’t throw your weight around. They’re a sovereign country and we have to respect their sovereignty.”

The specific details of the pact have not been made public and will not be disclosed until a “process” is carried out.

But the early indication from Sogavare is that there will not be a military base established.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government was “deeply disappointed” by the deal.

“We respect Solomon Islands’ right to make sovereign decisions about its national security,” she said in a joint statement with Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja.

“Our consistently stated view, including from the perspective of Australia’s national interests, remains that the Pacific family is best placed to meet the security needs of the region.”

Seselja had met with Sogavare last week to urge him not to sign the pact with China.