CyberCX Intelligence is actively monitoring the geopolitical landscape following the signing of the Solomon Islands-China Security Cooperation Agreement in April 2022. This Intelligence Update provides insights into current events surrounding the Security Agreement to provide situational awareness to Australian and New Zealand organisations. This Intelligence Update contains point in time assessments that may change quickly.
- There is increasing diplomatic tension and instability in the Pacific, a development likely to also increase cyber risk for all organisations in Australia and New Zealand.
- The Solomon Islands-China Security Cooperation Agreement (the Security Agreement) and associated actions will be key drivers in the Pacific cyber threat landscape.
- China’s increased influence in Solomon Islands increases the risk regional organisations face from cyber-enabled espionage, coercion and information operations.
- Regional organisations are most at risk if they have an operational footprint in Solomon Islands and operate in the transport, energy, mining, IT or communications sectors.
- There is a real chance that the Security Agreement preludes increased military activity in the Pacific. This in turn would increase the risk of cyber-enabled espionage and sabotage operations, especially for regional organisations in defence and defence-adjacent sectors, including port operations and communications.
- On 20 April 2022, Solomon Islands announced it had signed the Security Agreement.1 Prior to this, on 24 March, the draft agreement was leaked on social media.2
- The final terms of the signed Security Agreement have not been publicly released. Solomon Islands has indicated the intent of the Security Agreement is to “advance national development priorities and restore confidence for local businesses and investors” including by strengthening law enforcement capability.
- The Security Agreement follows violent protests and civil unrest in Solomon Islands in November 2021 that targeted Parliament, Chinese businesses and other buildings in the country’s capital, Honiara.3 In response, Australia deployed defence and federal police personnel to assist Solomon Islands in maintaining stability and security.4
- China’s strategic and economic interest in the Pacific is not new, but we assess the Security Agreement indicates Solomon Islands’ accelerated shift towards China’s interests.
- In recent years, Solomon Islands has strengthened its relationship with China, including through withdrawing its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in 2019.5
- China’s Foreign Minister’s upcoming visit to Solomon Islands in May 2022 is a milestone in the China-Solomon Islands relationship. The Foreign Minister is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Solomon Islands since bilateral diplomatic relations were formalised nearly three years ago.6 He is also set to visit seven other Pacific countries, including Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Kiribati, reinforcing China’s strong diplomatic interest in the region.7
- China already has a significant economic footprint in the Pacific and has existing security agreements relating to border control, equipment and training with Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu.
- China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims to deepen China’s military footprint and to establish global logistics and basing infrastructure to extend its military reach, including in the Pacific.8
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