A remote Pacific island country becomes a new hotbed of tension between the United States and China

A remote Pacific island country becomes a new hotbed of tension between the United States and China

HONIARA, Solomon Islands.– A team of American diplomats landed this Friday in the solomon islandsan archipelago located in Oceania, which signed a comprehensive security agreement with China and which is the subject of a dispute between the great powers.

Go against the United States and various Pacific allies, the Solomon Islands and China announced the signing of a diffuse border security pact. Last month, the leak of a draft version of the agreement caused a stir in several countries as authorized the deployment of Chinese police and naval officers in the islands.

Since then, Australia and the United States have multiplied diplomatic efforts to dissuade this archipelago from getting closer to Beijing. Efforts that were in vain.

This Friday, an American delegation landed at the airport in the capital Honiara to meet the governmentconfirmed an AFP correspondent.

U.S. National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell leaves after a meeting with Solomon Islands Opposition Leader Mathew Wale in Honiara on April 22, 2022.MAVIS PODOKOLO – AFP

The team is led by US diplomat for Asia Kurt Campbell and Daniel Kritenbrink, the Under Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

The emissaries from Washington had the initial mission of convince the authorities not to sign the agreement, but they found that the pact was signed last Tuesdayformalizing this approach.

On Wednesday, the United States denounced the lack of “transparency” regarding the agreementwhose final version has not been released.

Following the letter, the United States warned the Solomon Islands that will act “accordingly” if China installs a “permanent military presence” in the Pacific archipelago after the signing of a controversial security agreement, the White House reported on Friday.

The high-level US delegation explained to US leaders that if Beijing succeeds in ‘establishing a permanent de facto military presence’, the United States ‘will respond accordingly’the US presidency said in a statement. And the same will be true in the event that a “military installation” or “force projection capabilities” are put in place allowing a Chinese deployment in the region, he stressed.

Australia and the United States have long expressed their concern over the possibility of China building a naval base in the South Pacificwhich would allow it to project its maritime presence beyond its borders.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has denied plans to build a military base. “In response to the concerns raised, Prime Minister Sogavare reiterated his assurances and specifically assured that there would be no military base, long term presence or force projection capabilitiesthe US presidency said in the statement.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his Solomon Islands counterpart Manasseh Sogavare during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his Solomon Islands counterpart Manasseh Sogavare during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.Mark Schiefelbein – AP

“The United States stressed that it would closely follow developments with its regional partners”he claimed.

The American delegation also insisted on the “potential implications for regional security”, and questioned itself, during “substantive discussions”, “on the objective, the scope and the transparency of the agreement”.

The Americans, who claim to “respect the right” of the Solomon Islands to make “sovereign decisions”, have tried to earn their trust through a series of decisions. Between them, speed up the opening of a US Embassy, ​​strengthen mining cooperation, send a hospital ship or deliver additional vaccines.

The two countries have also pledged to launch a “high-level strategic dialogue” which will focus on the sensitive issue of security.

At the end of 2021, the Solomon Islands suffered violent riots fueled by popular resentment of China’s growing influence. Several stores run by Chinese were looted and burned in Honiara.

China, which sent police instructors and anti-riot equipment, has since sought to strengthen its presence in the archipelago.

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