By ANDREW FANASIA
PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare says his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison respects any decision his Government may have on the China-Taiwan issue.
Sogavare was speaking to reporters on Tuesday, a day after Morrison’s brief visit to Honiara.
He said they discussed the issue at length during their one-on-one discussion.
“It’s a critical issue we discussed during our one-on-one meeting,” Sogavare told reporters.
Earlier, the Australian media reported Morrison’s visit was made in light of China’s rising influence in the Pacific.
“Morrison says quite frankly that Australia will not pressure my government on this critical issue,” Sogavare said.
“In fact he stated that Australia will respect whatever foreign policy my government makes in regards to this issue,” he added.
“Our sovereignty is paramount in this regard.”
“And Morrison and the government of Australia will always respect our independence and sovereignty.
“Australia is like a big brother not only to Solomon Islands but also to other Pacific island countries.
“Therefore as a big brother there will always be an understanding for us to work together and address common issues that affect all of us.
“Morrison said the choice to switch from Taiwan to China is solely in the hands of the Solomon Islands government.
“The only concern is we all need to take serious considerations on how we can all do it and on whose benefit.”
Solomon Islands is one of six Pacific nations that recognized Taiwan.
Earlier, the United States has signaled it would like Australia to use its influence in the region to make sure none of them switch allegiance to Beijing.
Morrison has made it clear that Solomon Islands is an independent sovereign nation with rights to make decisions in the national interests.
There have been recent talks of a possible switch in diplomatic ties by the new government, but Sogavare and some of his ministers recently attended a function held on board a visiting Taiwanese naval vessel.