The United States warns of a reaction to any move towards China’s permanent presence in Solomons
The United States warns of a reaction to any move towards China’s permanent presence in Solomons

The United States warns of a reaction to any move towards China’s permanent presence in Solomons

SYDNEY / WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) – A high-level U.S. delegation met with the Solomon Islands leader on Friday, warning that Washington would have “significant concerns and respond accordingly” to any move to establish a permanent Chinese military presence in the Pacific island nation.

A White House statement said Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare reiterated to the visiting delegation led by White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell that there would be no military base, no long-term presence and no power projection capacity under a security agreement signed with China.

The White House gave no indication of what the U.S. response would be to such an eventuality, but its blunt tone indicated the level of American concern that led to the deployment of Campbell’s mission to the remote island nation this week.

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“If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power projection capabilities or a military installation, the delegation noted that the United States would have significant concerns and respond accordingly,” it said.

“The United States stressed that it will follow developments closely in consultation with regional partners.”

The statement said the US delegation outlined specific steps Washington would take to promote the welfare of the people of Solomon, including speeding up the opening of an embassy there, increasing cooperation on unexploded ordinance and sending the Mercy hospital ship to address health issues. . It said Washington would also provide more vaccines and would promote climate and health initiatives.

It said the two sides had “substantial discussion” about the security deal with China.

“Representatives of the Solomon Islands indicated that the agreement had exclusively domestic uses, but the U.S. delegation noted that there are potential regional security implications of the agreement, including for the United States and its allies and partners,” the statement said.

The delegation met Sogavare in Solomon’s capital Honiara days after Solomon Islands and China said they had signed a security pact, despite a barrage of calls from Washington and its allies urging the island nation not to proceed with an agreement. the fears will prolong considerably. China’s military reach in the region.

The Solomon Islands occupy a strategic position in the Pacific and were the scene of some of the bloodiest battles in that theater during World War II.

On Wednesday, Sogavare, who brushed off international concerns, told parliament that the agreement would not undermine peace. Read more

Campbell discussed the security deal with neighboring Fiji and Papua New Guinea ahead of his visit to Honiara, the U.S. embassy in Papua New Guinea said.

Australian officials said Campbell’s visit likely prompted China and the Solomon Islands to announce the deal was a final deal.

While Sogavare has ruled out hosting a Chinese military base, US allies Australia and New Zealand have expressed concern that the pact would disrupt regional security, allowing Chinese naval vessels to rebuild in Honiara.

All details have not been revealed, but the pact will allow Chinese police to protect Chinese-funded infrastructure projects after the country was rocked by riots last year in which four people were killed.

On Friday, Sogavare joined China’s ambassador, Li Ming, in handing over an athletics track donated by China, one of the $ 120 million worth of sports facilities, that China has paid to help Solomon be hosted the Pacific Games in 2023.

The Solomon Islands shifted diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, and Sogavare said in a speech at the ceremony that the decision had “placed the country on the right side of history”.

Li defended the security pact.

“Development and security are two sides of a coin. Without security and security, countries cannot enjoy sustainable development and economic growth. This was demonstrated by the riots last year,” he said in a speech.

For Australia, the Security Pact raises the prospect of a Chinese military presence less than 2,000 km (1,200 miles) from the country’s shores. Read more

New Zealand and Tonga have said they will raise the issue at an upcoming meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders, while Japan plans to send a deputy foreign minister to the Solomon Islands this month, the Kyodo news agency reported.

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Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney and David Brunnstrom, Michael Martin and Chris Gallagher in Washington and M iahc; Edited by William Mallard, Robert Birsel and Jonathan Oatis

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