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Canberra has sent police, soldiers and diplomatic personnel to Solomon Islands in an effort to quell violent protests against the county’s ties to China, with protesters recently attempting to storm the national parliament.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the deployment on Thursday, saying a detachment of some 75 federal police, 43 soldiers and at least five diplomats were heading to the islands. “Ensure stability and security” and help local authorities protect important infrastructure.

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Their mission is expected to last for several weeks and comes amid growing unrest and protests over a litany of domestic issues – perhaps foremost among them a decision by the Solomon government in 2019 to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China, which considers Taiwan part of its own territory.

Morrison, however, insisted that “The Australian government has no intention of intervening in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands,” he added. adding that the deployment “Does not indicate any position on internal matters” of the nation.

Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced a 36-hour lockdown on Wednesday following a massive protest in the capital Honiara, where protesters demanded his resignation. At one point, protesters even attempted to storm the Parliament building and then started a fire in a hut directly adjacent to the Legislature.

Shops and other buildings in the city’s Chinatown have also been looted and torched, despite ongoing lockdown and curfew orders. The destruction was captured in footage circling online, with damaged and smoking buildings seen amid a sea of ​​debris.

As Australian staff arrived on Friday, the Prime Minister pinned down protests against unspecified foreign states, saying the protesters had been “Fed on false and deliberate lies” on the relationship of the islands with Beijing.

“These same countries that are now influencing [the protesters] are the countries that do not want ties with the People’s Republic of China, and they discourage the Solomon Islands from establishing diplomatic relations ”, Sogavare said, but declined to name a particular nation.

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