Australia to help Solomons build security infrastructure project

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia will help the Solomon Islands build a border and patrol boat outpost, the prime ministers of the two countries said on Monday, as they hailed their security cooperation and friendship.

Australia’s ties with the Solomon Islands and other small, developing countries in the Pacific have taken on additional significance as China expands its influence in a region dominated by the United States and its allies since World War Two.

In September, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati became the latest Pacific nations to cut ties with Taiwan and establish diplomatic relations with China in a sign of Beijing’s growing influence.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Manasseh Sogavare, the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, said the border and boat project showed “enduring and close friendship” and is part of Australia’s “broader step up” in the Pacific.

“Australia’s support for a border and patrol boat outpost will enhance infrastructure and security cooperation between our countries, and support Solomon Islands’ border security,” the leaders said, according to a joint statement released by the Australian prime minister’s media office.

There was no information provided about potential costs of the project in the west of the island nation.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Robert Birsel