Australian troops will join a small force of police and diplomats bound for the Solomon Islands on Thursday as civil unrest continues across the tiny South Pacific nation.
The violence comes amid ongoing tensions over the government’s 2019 decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal links with China and its ruling Communist Party dictatorship.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the deployment will 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.
“Our purpose here is to provide stability and security,” Morrison said following a meeting of the National Security Committee of cabinet in Canberra.
The Defence ground element will be supplied by the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade.
The conservative coalition leader says the aid comes at the request of his Solomon Islands’ counterpart, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Sogavare declared a lockdown Wednesday after about 1,000 people gathered in protest in the capital Honiara demanding his resignation over a host of domestic issues, AP reports.
The protesters breached the National Parliament building and burned the thatched roof of a nearby building, the government said.
Australia led an international police and military force called the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands that restored peace in the country after bloody ethnic violence from 2003 until 2017.
Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara has been wracked with unrest in recent days as the government has faced pressure over a 2019 decision to cut ties with Taiwan and establish a formal relationship with China.
New Zealand’s foreign ministry said Thursday it had not been approached by the Solomons’ government for assistance, AFP reports.