China gives Solomon Islands $66 million loan for Huawei deal

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SYDNEY: Solomon Islands has secured a $66 million loan from China to fund tech giant Huawei building 161 telecoms towers across the Pacific nation, its government said on Thursday. It is the first large-scale financing the country has received from Beijing since they signed a secretive security pact in April.
The island nation’s growing financial and security links to China have roused concern from the US and its allies, including Australia, which had agreed to build six telecoms towers in the country.
The Solomons will receive a 20-year concessional loan from state-linked Export-Import Bank of China that will fully fund Huawei’s construction of the towers, the government said, calling it a “historical financial partnership”. Almost half of the towers will be built before the country hosts the Pacific Island Games in November 2023, according to the government’s statement. The towers would allow Solomon Islanders, especially those in rural areas, to watch the games even if they cannot travel to capital Honiara, the government said.
Western officials have warned China could use the security pact to build a military base in the country – something the Pacific nation’s prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has repeatedly denied. The country switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing in 2019. A spokesperson for Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade said they were aware of the telecoms deal and supported infrastructure investment that “avoids unsustainable debt burdens”.



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Date: August 20, 2022