PM Manasseh Sogavare says ongoing unrest is being "influenced and encouraged by other powers" over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to China.

Smoke rises from burning buildings in Chinatown, Honiara during violent riots in the Solomon Islands.
Smoke rises from burning buildings in Chinatown, Honiara during violent riots in the Solomon Islands. (Reuters)

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has blamed foreign interference over his government's decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to China for anti-government protests, arson, and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days.

Sogavare said on Friday that he stood by his government's decision to embrace Beijing, which he described as the "only issue" in the violence, which was "unfortunately influenced and encouraged by other powers."

External pressures were a "very big ... influence. I don't want to name names. We'll leave it there," Sogavare told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Sogavare angered many in 2019, particularly leaders of the Solomon Islands' most populous province, Malaita, when he cut the country's diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

"I'm not going to bow down to anyone. We are intact, the government's intact and we’re going to defend democracy," he added.

Police fire warning shots to disperse protestors

Meanwhile, police fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse rioters trying to reach Sogavare's private residence, AFP reporters on the scene said.

A small number of officers successfully dispersed the crowd who had set fire to at least one building, driving them back toward the centre of Honiara, which has been left smouldering after three days of violent protests.

READ MORE: Australia deploys security forces as Solomon Islands unrest grows

Australia deploys peacekeepers 

Australian peacekeepers deployed to secure the airport and port of the riot-torn capital Honiara as young men rummaged for goods in smouldering buildings across the Chinatown district.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne did not agree that other countries had stirred up the unrest.

"We have not indicated that at all," Payne said.

"We've been very clear. Our view is we don't want to see violence. We would very much hope for a return to stability," she added.

Some observers argue Australia intervened quickly to avoid Chinese security forces moving in to restore order.

But PM Scott Morrison said Sogavare had asked for help because he trusted Australia.

READ MORE: Buildings set ablaze in Solomon Islands in anti-government protests

China expresses outrage 

China, meanwhile, expressed serious concern about recent attacks on some Chinese citizens and institutions, without providing details.

Honiara's China town has reportedly been hard hit by arsonists and looters.

"We believe that under the leadership of Prime Minister Sogavare, the Solomon Islands government can restore social order and stability as soon as possible,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.

"Any attempts to undermine the normal development of China-Solomon relations are futile," he said.

Local media reported that many of the protesters were from Malaita, whose premier, Daniel Suidani, has been at odds with Sogavare, whom he accuses of being too close to Beijing.

READ MORE: Taiwan cuts ties with Solomon Islands after China switch

Source: TRTWorld and agencies