STORY: China signed a security pact with Solomon Islands in April, alarming the United States, Australia and New Zealand as they fear a stepped-up military presence by Beijing. China has said it is not establishing a military base in the Solomon Islands and that its goal it to strengthen security cooperation with Pacific island nations.
Henare told Reuters that he met with Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe at a security summit in Singapore this week, where he reiterated the importance of the Pacific islands maintaining their independence.
"My point to them was very clear, that we support independence, we support sovereign nations and sovereign states, like the many in the Pacific," Henare told Reuters on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's top defence meeting. The Solomon Islands and Fiji also sent delegations to the summit and were scheduled to speak at sessions over the weekend.
Henare said "open dialogue" was key to managing security relations with China.
"It's not by coincidence that I met with China to make sure we can hear each other out and be very direct," he said.