Caretaker Prime Minister Rick Hou says Australia’s increasing engagement with the Pacific region, including Solomon Islands is a reassurance of friendship between Australia and its Pacific neighbors.
Mr Hou made the statement last night (Tuesday 5th March) at a dinner onboard the visiting HMAS Choules which had made a stopover in Honiara as part of its maritime training exercise covering the South Western Pacific.
Last month, the HMAS Melville also visited Honiara on a similar deployment and later this month another Australian Royal Navy vessel is expected to dock in Honiara to assist in providing logistics and operational support towards the upcoming National General Election.
The HMAS Choules is designed to carry helicopters and landing crafts that can be used to land troops and equipment ashore without the need for on-shore infrastructure, which Prime Minister Hou has described as a “floating fortress”.
The caretaker Prime Minister said the huge capabilities of Australian naval vessels visiting the country provide reassurance that Australia and Solomon Islands are friends and that these visits provides opportunities for the ship’s companies to conduct community services in Solomon Islands.
“This visit by HMAS Choules is a further symbol of the strengthening partnership and relationship between Solomon Islands and Australia which had gone back many years and one that had gone from strength to strength,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Hou had highlighted that one key priority for Solomon Islands is the survey and determination of its continental shelf as well as surveying potential ‘hot spots’ for cruise tourism which he hoped that the HMAS Melville which visited Honiara last month might be able to assist Solomon Islands in this regard in the near future.
The HMAS Choules is on its way to Port Vila, Vanuatu on a similar mission before returning home to Sydney.