(Bloomberg) -- Samoa’s prime minister cautioned Pacific counterparts against inviting foreign forces into their countries to help quell civil unrest at a time when the US and China are intensifying geopolitical competition in the region.

It would “not be a trend that I would encourage,” Fiame Naomi Mata’afa told a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday. “It is a window, essentially, to come into a country under the guise of protecting your assets.” 

Mata’afa, who is in Australia on a state visit to meet with political leaders including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, added that most countries want to resolve their issues themselves “because it’s all part of being sovereign.” 

China has sought to gain a foothold in the Pacific in recent years and deployed police advisers to the Solomon Islands following riots in 2021 to assist the government and protect the Chinese diaspora. The Solomons also signed a security agreement with China in April 2022 in a diplomatic coup for Beijing.

Australia also sent troops to the Solomon Islands at the request of the local government.

Pacific Leader Criticizes US and Allies’ New Strategic Language

The Samoan prime minister spoke Wednesday after Reuters reported the China Civil Engineering Construction Company had won a tender to redevelop an international port in the Solomons. 

Mata’afa said the decision was a sovereign one by the Solomon Islands government, but added there were fears that “it might move into something else,” such as a dual-use military and civilian port.

“I suppose we have to address that if and when it might happen,” she said, pointing out that other countries also had military installations in the Pacific.

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