With eyes on China's influence in the region, Canberra says it will allocate $29 million for deployments in the Solomon Islands.

"Without these investments, others will continue to fill the vacuum," FM Penny Wong says. (Fatih Uzun / TRTWorld)

Australia will set aside $29 million to fund police deployments in Solomon Islands in next week's budget, part of an increase in spending in the Pacific intended to shore up its standing in the region where China holds considerable sway. 

"Our assistance will help our regional partners become more economically resilient ... and provide their own security so they have less need to call on others," Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a speech at the Pacific Way conference at the University of French Polynesia on Friday.

"Without these investments, others will continue to fill the vacuum," Wong said, blaming the previous conservative coalition government, which lost a May election, for losing ground in the Pacific. "We have a lot of catching up to do."

The additional aid "will ensure we continue to provide direct budget support to reduce fiscal distress, ensuring critical government services," Wong added.

China's increasing presence in the Pacific, including entering a security pact with the Solomon Islands in April, has raised concerns for the United States and its ally Australia, who have for decades seen the region as largely their sphere of influence.

READ MORE: Solomons leader complains of 'vilification' after ties with China

Deals with Fiji, Papua New Guinea

The move comes a day after Australia and Fiji signed an agreement to allow the operation of militaries in each other's country and a security treaty with Papua New Guinea last week that will see their respective defence personnel working alongside each other more often.

Australia's Labor government during the election campaign had promised an increase of nearly $330 million over four years in official aid to the Pacific.

On Friday, that figure was boosted to $563 million, which includes the $29 million for Solomon Islands police.

The budget will also aim to create a new Pacific engagement visa for up to 3,000 nationals of Pacific island countries and East Timor each year to permanently migrate to Australia, Wong will say.

READ MORE: Australia pushes back against China security pact during Solomons visit

Source: Reuters