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Leaked Documents Show Plans For Chinese Military Presence In Solomon Islands

Defence Minister Peter Dutton insists Australia hasn't dropped the ball on Pacific relations, after the Solomon Islands signed a policing deal with China.

The deal between the two nations would allow for Chinese ships to be based in the Pacific, as well as have a navy base less than 2000 kilometres off Australia's coast.

Despite the deal, Mr Dutton said Australia still had a "fantastic" relationship with the Solomon Islands, rejecting suggestions Australia had misjudged the situation in the region.

"We would be concerned clearly about any military base being established, and we would express that to the Solomon Islands' government," he told the Nine Network on Friday.

"We want peace and stability in our region, we don't want pressure and exertion from China to continue to roll out in the region."

Mr Dutton said China's ambitions in the Pacific weren't consistent with Australia's values in the area, or that of the values of the Solomons or other nearby nations.

The Solomon Islands switched their diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, which partly led to riots in the capital Honiara in November last year.

Australia, which has historically provided security to the Solomons, led a policing mission in the wake of the riots following a request from the country's prime minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said China's move in the area was deeply concerning.

"This would be a very significant and negative development for Australia's geopolitical interests in our region," he told ABC Radio.

"It would frankly represent a failure of the Pacific step up ... we should be the partner of choice for our Pacific neighbours."

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said it was one of the most significant security developments in decades.

"It's one which is adverse to Australia's national security interests," he told ABC Radio.

"The foreign minister should be dispatched to the Solomon Islands to negotiate and renegotiate Australia's overall development assistance package with the Solomon Islands."

Mr Rudd said the current government had displayed negligence towards the Pacific in recent years, particularly in foreign aid budgets, which has allowed for China to flourish in the area.

"Relations with so many of the island states have got to such a threadbare level over climate change over aid cuts, that we now see the Chinese being welcomed into our immediate neighbourhood by these countries," he said.

"There's a lot of people in Solomon Islands with a strong and positive view of Australia. We need to draw upon the political capital which arises from the billions of dollars that we all spent together."