Australia will deploy a peacekeeping force to Solomon Islands after violent protests targeted parliament, Chinese businesses and other buildings in the Pacific nation’s capital, Honiara.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday afternoon that 23 Australian Federal Police officers and 43 Australian Defence Force personnel will be deployed to Solomon Islands to assist with “riot control”.
“Our presence will seek to calm the situation in the Solomon Islands,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne emphasised that Australia was not becoming involved in the internal affairs of Solomon Islands, but rather helping to restore stability.
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said Australia was committed to “the security and the stability of the Pacific”.
On Wednesday police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse large crowds demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Mr Sogavare announced a 36-hour lockdown of Honiara after Wednesday’s violent protests, which saw buildings including a police station and a leaf hut next to Parliament House set on fire.
Fresh protests have broken out in the capital on Thursday, with smoke seen from Honiara’s Chinatown district.
What started as a peaceful protest by people primarily from the Malaita Province turned violent on Wednesday as a crowd of about 1,000 people grew agitated.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, while buildings were stoned and others went up in flames.
Mr Sogavare said it was a “sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing a democratically-elected government down”.
So, what has sparked the civil unrest and what do China and Taiwan have to do with it?