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World: Solomon Islands violence recedes but not underlying tension

Australia sending troops, police to Solomons amid unrest

  Australia sending troops, police to Solomons amid unrest CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia says it is sending police, troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands to help after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day in violent protests. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday the deployment would include a detachment of 23 federal police officers and up to 50 more to provide security at critical infrastructure sites, as well as 43 defense force personnel, a patrol boat and at least five diplomats.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Violence receded Friday in the capital of the Solomon Islands, but the government showed no signs of addressing the underlying grievances that sparked two days of riots, including concerns about the country's increasing links with China.

A building burns in Chinatown, Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Violence receded in the capital of the Solomon Islands, but the government showed no signs of attempting to address the underlying grievances that sparked two days of riots, including concerns of the country's increasing links with China. (AP Photo/Piringi Charley) © Provided by Associated Press A building burns in Chinatown, Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Violence receded in the capital of the Solomon Islands, but the government showed no signs of attempting to address the underlying grievances that sparked two days of riots, including concerns of the country's increasing links with China. (AP Photo/Piringi Charley)

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare sought to deflect attention from domestic issues by blaming outside interference for stirring up the protesters, with a thinly veiled reference to Taiwan and the United States.

Riots in Solomon Islands, Australia deploys soldiers

 Riots in Solomon Islands, Australia deploys soldiers When Taiwan status creates tensions on the Solomon Islands. Australia sends peacekeeping forces. © Screenshot Aubc Via AP New riots shook the Solomon Islands Thursday, bringing Australia to deploy a peacekeeping force, on the background of rivalry between Taiwan and Beijing which is alarmed for its interests in the Pacific archipelago.

External pressures were a “very big ... influence. I don’t want to name names. We’ll leave it there,” Sogavare said.

Debris lies on the street outside damaged shops in Chinatown, Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Violence receded in the capital of the Solomon Islands, but the government showed no signs of attempting to address the underlying grievances that sparked two days of riots, including concerns of the country's increasing links with China (AP Photo/Piringi Charley) © Provided by Associated Press Debris lies on the street outside damaged shops in Chinatown, Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Violence receded in the capital of the Solomon Islands, but the government showed no signs of attempting to address the underlying grievances that sparked two days of riots, including concerns of the country's increasing links with China (AP Photo/Piringi Charley)

Honiara’s Chinatown and its downtown precinct were focuses of rioters, looters and protesters who demanded the resignation of Sogavare, who has intermittently been prime minister since 2000.

Sogavare has been widely criticized by leaders of the country's most populous island of Malaita for a 2019 decision to drop diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of mainland China. His government, meanwhile, has been upset over millions in U.S. aid promised directly to Malaita, rather than through the central government.

Some fear China could win from US spat with Marshall Islands

  Some fear China could win from US spat with Marshall Islands WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — For decades, the tiny Marshall Islands has been a stalwart American ally. Its location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has made it a key strategic outpost for the U.S. military. But that loyalty is being tested amid a dispute with Washington over the terms of its “Compact of Free Association” agreement, which expires soon. The U.S. is refusing to engage the Marshallese on claims for environmental and health damage caused by dozens of nuclear tests it carried out in the 1940s and '50s, including a huge thermonuclear blast on Bikini Atoll.

FILE - Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands attends a Lowy Institute event in Sydney, Monday Aug. 14, 2017. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital in recent days. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands attends a Lowy Institute event in Sydney, Monday Aug. 14, 2017. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital in recent days. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

Those issues are just the latest in decades of rivalry between Malaita and Guadalcanal, where the capital, Honiara, is located, said Jonathan Pryke, director of the Sydney-based Lowy Institute think tank's Pacific Islands program.

"Most of the drivers of the tension have been in the country for many decades and generations, and a lot of it is born out of the abject poverty of the country, the limited economic development opportunities and the inter-ethnic and inter-island rivalry between the two most populous islands," he said.

EXPLAINER: Is China to blame for Solomon Islands unrest?

  EXPLAINER: Is China to blame for Solomon Islands unrest? CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Solomon Islands’ decision to switch its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to Beijing has been blamed for arson and looting in the national capital Honiara, where protesters are demanding the prime minister's resignation. Australian police, troops and diplomats are helping local police restore peace and order while trying to keep out of the domestic political dispute. Here's a look at some of the reasons behind the turmoil: ETHNIC TENSIONS OPEN OLD WOUNDS © Provided by Associated Press FILE - New Zealand troops stand guard over a crowd of more than 200 Solomon Islanders that gathered outside Honiara Magistrates court on th

“So everyone's pointing fingers, but some fingers also need to be pointed at the political leaders of the Solomon Islands.”

The Solomon Islands, with a population of about 700,000, are located about 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) northeast of Australia. Internationally they are probably still best known for the bloody fighting that took place there during World War II between the United States and Japan.

FILE - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital in recent days. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital in recent days. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Riots and looting erupted Wednesday out of a peaceful protest in Honiara, primarily of people from Malaita demonstrating over a number of grievances. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators, who set fire to the National Parliament, a police station and many other buildings.

Solomon Islands police find 3 bodies after violent protests

  Solomon Islands police find 3 bodies after violent protests CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Solomon Islands police found three bodies in a burned-out building and arrested more than 100 people in this week's violence sparked by concerns about the Pacific nation's increasing links with China. Australian media reported the bodies were recovered late Friday after riots and protests subsided. No other details were given. Authorities imposed a curfew in the capital Honiara, after a 36-hour lockdown ordered by the embattled Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare ended Friday. Sogavare blamed outside interference for stirring up the protests calling for his resignation, with a thinly veiled reference to Taiwan and the United States.

People walk through the looted streets of Chinatown in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday blamed foreign interference over his government’s decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days. (AP Photo/Piringi Charley) © Provided by Associated Press People walk through the looted streets of Chinatown in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday blamed foreign interference over his government’s decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days. (AP Photo/Piringi Charley)

Protesters defied a lockdown declared by Sogavare on Wednesday to take to the streets again on Thursday.

Critics also blamed the unrest on complaints of a lack of government services and accountability, corruption and Chinese businesses giving jobs to foreigners instead of locals.

People walk through the looted streets of Chinatown in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday blamed foreign interference over his government’s decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days. (AP Photo/Piringi Charley) © Provided by Associated Press People walk through the looted streets of Chinatown in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday blamed foreign interference over his government’s decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days. (AP Photo/Piringi Charley)

Since the 2019 shift in allegiance from Taiwan to China there has been an expectation of massive infrastructure investment from Beijing — locally rumored to be in the range of $500 million — but with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic shortly after the shift, none of that has yet materialized.

Solomon Islands: How to explain the murderer riots?

 Solomon Islands: How to explain the murderer riots? © AP - Piringi Charley This photo taken on November 27, 2021 shows the violence of riots in the Chinese district of Honiara, the Solomon Islands. The streets were calm Saturday, November 27 in Honiara, capital of Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, after several days of riots that have made at least three deaths and 56 buildings of the burned and looted capital.

People walk through the looted streets of Chinatown in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday blamed foreign interference over his government’s decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days. (AP Photo/Piringi Charley) © Provided by Associated Press People walk through the looted streets of Chinatown in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday blamed foreign interference over his government’s decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days. (AP Photo/Piringi Charley)

Malaita threatened to hold a referendum on independence over the issue, but that was quashed by Sogavare's government.

Sogavare said Friday that he stood by his government’s decision to embrace Beijing, which he described as the “only issue” in the violence, which was “unfortunately influenced and encouraged by other powers.”

“I’m not going to bow down to anyone. We are intact, the government’s intact and we’re going to defend democracy,” he said.

Police man a road block in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Violence receded in the capital of the Solomon Islands, but the government showed no signs of attempting to address the underlying grievances that sparked two days of riots, including concerns of the country's increasing links with China (AP Photo/Piringi Charley) © Provided by Associated Press Police man a road block in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Violence receded in the capital of the Solomon Islands, but the government showed no signs of attempting to address the underlying grievances that sparked two days of riots, including concerns of the country's increasing links with China (AP Photo/Piringi Charley)

More than broad geopolitical concerns, however, Pryke said the demonstrations really boiled down to frustration over the lack of opportunities for a largely young population, and the concentration of much of the country's wealth in the capital.

“I guarantee you the vast majority of the people involved in the rioting and looting couldn't point China or Taiwan out on a map,” he said. “They were there as opportunists because they have had very limited economic opportunity. It's a very poor country with high youth unemployment, and this just shows how quickly these things can spiral out of control in a country that's volatile.”

EXPLAINER-What is behind unrest in the Solomon Islands?

  EXPLAINER-What is behind unrest in the Solomon Islands? EXPLAINER-What is behind unrest in the Solomon Islands?SYDNEY (Reuters) - Four people were killed during violent anti-government protests in the Solomon Islands that prompted Australia to send police and soldiers to help keep order.

In this photo released by Australian Department of Defense, Australian Federal Police Special Operations members prepare to depart Canberra, Australia, for the Solomon Islands on a Royal Australian Air Force jet, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Australia says it is sending police, troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands to help after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day in violent protests. (LACW Jacqueline Forrester/Australian Department of Defense via AP) © Provided by Associated Press In this photo released by Australian Department of Defense, Australian Federal Police Special Operations members prepare to depart Canberra, Australia, for the Solomon Islands on a Royal Australian Air Force jet, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Australia says it is sending police, troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands to help after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day in violent protests. (LACW Jacqueline Forrester/Australian Department of Defense via AP)

A plane carrying Australian police and diplomats arrived late Thursday in Honiara to help local police restore order.

Up to 50 more Australian police as well 43 defense force personnel with a navy patrol boat were scheduled to arrive on Friday.

In this photo released by Australian Department of Defense, Australian Federal Police Special Operations members prepare to depart Canberra, Australia, for the Solomon Islands on a Royal Australian Air Force jet, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Australia says it is sending police, troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands to help after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day in violent protests. (LACW Jacqueline Forrester/Australian Department of Defense via AP) © Provided by Associated Press In this photo released by Australian Department of Defense, Australian Federal Police Special Operations members prepare to depart Canberra, Australia, for the Solomon Islands on a Royal Australian Air Force jet, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Australia says it is sending police, troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands to help after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day in violent protests. (LACW Jacqueline Forrester/Australian Department of Defense via AP)

They were requested by Sogavare under a bilateral treaty with Australia, and the presence of an independent force, though small, seemed to help quell some of the violence.

In this photo released by Australian Department of Defense, Australian Federal Police Special Operations members prepare to depart Canberra, Australia, for the Solomon Islands Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Australia says it is sending police, troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands to help after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day in violent protests. (LACW Jacqueline Forrester/Australian Department of Defense via AP) © Provided by Associated Press In this photo released by Australian Department of Defense, Australian Federal Police Special Operations members prepare to depart Canberra, Australia, for the Solomon Islands Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Australia says it is sending police, troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands to help after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day in violent protests. (LACW Jacqueline Forrester/Australian Department of Defense via AP)

Australia has a history of assisting the Solomon Islands, stepping in after years of bloody ethnic violence known as “the tensions” in 2003. The Australian-led international police and military force called the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands helped restore the peace and left in 2017.

Solomon Islands PM survives no-confidence vote

  Solomon Islands PM survives no-confidence vote It comes after riots which were fuelled by a decision to switch relations from Taiwan to China.It comes just more than a week after riots rocked the Pacific Island nation for three consecutive days.

The Australian personnel are expected to be on hand for “a matter of weeks," according Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Payne told reporters on Friday that she had no indication that other countries had stirred up the unrest.

“We have not indicated that at all,” Payne said.

Australia is not assisting in the protection of the National Parliament and the executive buildings, in a sign that it was not taking political sides.

“We’ve been very clear. Our view is we don’t want to see violence," Payne said. “We would very much hope for a return to stability."

Local journalist Gina Kekea said the foreign policy switch to Beijing with little public consultation was one of a mix of issues that led to the protests. There were also complaints that foreign companies were not providing local jobs.

“Chinese businesses and (other) Asian businesses ... seem to have most of the work, especially when it comes to extracting resources, which people feel strongly about,” Kekea said.

FILE - Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, at U.N. headquarters. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital in recent days. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, at U.N. headquarters. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital in recent days. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

Protesters were replaced by looters and scavengers on Friday in Chinatown, Kekea said.

“It’s been two days, two whole days of looting and protesting and rioting and Honiara is just a small city,” Kekea said. The capital has 85,000 residents.

“So I think that there’s nothing much left for them to loot and spoil now,” she said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison questioned whether Chinese citizens and businesses were being targeted. He described the unrest as “a bit of a mixed story” and noted Chinatown was the scene of rioting before Australia’s 2003 intervention.

FILE - Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, left, walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital in recent days.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, left, walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital in recent days.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Friday condemned the violence and stressed Beijing's support for the Solomon Islands government. He said China was taking measures to safeguard the safety and rights of Chinese people and institutions in the country.

“We believe that under the leadership of Prime Minister Sogavare, the Solomon government can restore order and stabilize the internal situation as soon as possible,” he said.

The establishment of diplomatic ties with Beijing “has won sincere support of the people," and "any attempts to undermine the normal development of China-Solomon relations are futile,” Zhao said.

___

Rising reported from Bangkok.

Solomon Islands PM survives no-confidence vote .
It comes after riots which were fuelled by a decision to switch relations from Taiwan to China.It comes just more than a week after riots rocked the Pacific Island nation for three consecutive days.

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