Solomon Islands officially opens embassy in Beijing, 'a big milestone' to further enhance relations between countries and people
Published: Jul 11, 2023 09:09 PM
Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi attends the inauguration ceremony of Solomon Islands embassy in Beijing on July 11,together with Manasseh Sogavare, the prime minister of Solomon Islands. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi attends the inauguration ceremony of Solomon Islands embassy in Beijing on July 11,together with Manasseh Sogavare, the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Through a ceremony with applause and dances in Beijing, the Solomon Islands officially opened its embassy in China on Tuesday, almost four years after the two countries established diplomatic ties. The Tuesday event, as Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told the Global Times, is "a big milestone" that is expected to further enhance the relations between the two countries and their people.

The ceremony, held in Beijing, was attended by Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and Sogavare, who is on his second official visit to China.

Barrett Salato was introduced by Sogavare as the new Solomon Islands Ambassador to China at the event. Before this, he served as the Trade Commissioner in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade of the Solomon Islands, according to the local government website.

In the future, through the embassy, bilateral relations between the Solomon Islands and China, people-to-people ties, and shared values between the two countries will be further strengthened, Sogavare told the Global Times.

He further noted that China is a great country, and for countries like the Solomon Islands and other similar Pacific Island countries, it would be "very stupid" not to increase cooperation with China and seize the development opportunities it offers. 

"China is our good friend, and it can help us achieve these development goals," he concluded.

The two countries established diplomatic ties on September 21, 2019. Half a month later, Sogavare paid his first visit to China, during which the Solomon Islands officially joined the Belt and Road Initiative.

Analysts believe that since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China-Solomon Islands relations have made great progress. In 2022, the two countries even signed a security pact that drew global attention. 

On Monday afternoon, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Sogavare in Beijing, as the two sides jointly announced the official establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership based on mutual respect and common development for a new era.

Sogavare and Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang have also witnessed the signing of a number of bilateral cooperation documents on development cooperation, trade, civil aviation, customs and meteorology, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"It is a bilateral relation forged together by shared principles of equality, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and non interference. Solomon Islands-China relation is special and unique," Sogavare said in his speech at the opening ceremony, recalling that China was one of the first countries to provide Solomon Islands much needed vaccine during the pandemic. 

"It provides our country with its testing equipments and supported our national health infrastructure. China stood by the Solomon Islands," he said.

He also reaffirmed Solomon Islands' recognition of the one-China principle and vowed to boost engagement with China at all levels. "I made it very clear, there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an integral part of this great country," he said at the event.

Media reported that Sogavare is leading a delegation consisting of representatives from diplomatic, trade, and other fields, to visit multiple cities and provinces in China, including Beijing, East China's Jiangsu, and South China's Guangdong provinces. They will also visit several companies to explore cooperation opportunities.

"I am very pleased," said Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands, Li Ming, in an interview with the Global Times at the opening ceremony. He expressed the hope that the opening of the embassy would further promote bilateral relations to new heights. 

"I believe that whether in Beijing or Honiara, the embassies of both sides are willing to work together to promote greater development in the friendly relations between the two countries and their peoples," he said.

People-to-people exchanges

At the opening ceremony on Tuesday, some young Solomon Islanders, dressed in traditional attire, joyfully performed traditional dances, representing different islands of the Pacific country. Behind them, the background screen was showing the beautiful scenery of the tropic islands, with a slogan saying "Welcome to Solomon Islands."

These young people are students from Solomon Islands who are currently studying at various Chinese universities.

Thanks to the support of the Chinese government, many students from the Solomon Islands have been able to receive higher education in China over the past years. They are the best example of the people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

"I meet many helpful people here and I want to study very hard in China," Roxbe Gideon, a Northwestern Polytechnical University student from the Solomon Islands, told the Global Times at the Tuesday event. Gideon, majoring in civil engineering, said that he would like to follow his father's footsteps and become an engineer.

Nisi Alexandrick, Gideon's schoolmate, majoring in aeronautics, hoped to use the knowledge he learned in China to help improve aeronautics or aircraft system in his motherland, in order to improve the air transportation.

Apart from attending the opening ceremony, during their trip in Beijing, the students also had the opportunity to visit Tian'anmen Square and some leading technological companies such as the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation.

According to the "Joint Statement on Establishing a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Featuring Mutual Respect and Common Development For a New Era" published on Monday, China and the Solomon Islands will "expand exchanges and cooperation in areas such as culture, education, health, sports, tourism, youth, think tank and the media and at the subnational level."

China will continue to provide government scholarships and various kinds of training opportunities including maritime support and send medical teams to Solomon Islands. The Peace Ark hospital ship of the Chinese Navy will visit Solomon Islands and provide humanitarian medical service in 2023, read the statement.

The two sides formally signed the Agreement Between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of Solomon Islands Relating to Civil Air Transport, and are committed to launching direct flights between the two countries as early as possible.