The United States will not rule out military action against the Solomon Islands if China allows a military base to open in its territory. Still undercover, US Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Greidenbrink echoed an earlier White House warning against the island nation. Kritenbrink released her statements after her trip to Hawaii, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
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Confidential Security Agreement
China and the Solomon Islands have signed a secret security agreement, the draft of which was leaked on social media last month. The draft agreement contained provisions allowing China to “make voyages to the Solomon Islands, carry logistics there, and make stops and changes there.”
In addition to Gretchenbring, senior US delegates, including Kurt Campbell, co-ordinator of the National Security Council for Indo-Pacific Affairs, arrived in the Solomon Islands on Friday for talks with Prime Minister Manasseh Chokavare. According to Beijing, the topic of discussion was the secret agreement reached by the Prime Minister with China three days ago.
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That has a lot to say about the deal. The draft that was leaked in March set all the alarm bells in Australia and New Zealand and triggered a wave of intense campaigning in the US and Australia. Both countries fear China’s military expansion in the Indo – Pacific region. Pressure from Australia and New Zealand has failed to change the mindset of Prime Minister Manasseh Chowk. The Solomon Islands cabinet said on Thursday that officials had launched “elements of a bilateral framework for security cooperation” with China. The agency said the government would continue to work with all partners to “create a secure nation where all people can live together in peace.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenpin described the deal as “flawless”. “This agreement benefits the social stability and lasting security of the Solomon Islands and the common good of the regional nations,” he said. It was too late, as the US delegation arrived the next day.
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Asked if the US delegation had asked for access to the agreement during talks with Prime Minister Chowdhury, Gretchenbrink replied, “It is clear that very few people in the smallest circle have seen this agreement.” The deputy minister added that it was worrying that Sokavare had publicly stated that “I will share details only with the permission of China”. This, incidentally, led to struggles in our own country. Solomon Islands MPs have called on the Prime Minister to make the speech public.
Kritenbrink was harshly critical, calling what he called ‘the lack of transparency behind this deal’. He said other Pacific nations and “friends in the Solomon Islands” were concerned about the deal being negotiated behind closed doors. Otherwise, Gridenbring said the meeting with the Prime Minister was constructive and honest, and that the United States was concerned about the security deal.
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“We wanted to convey our concerns to our friends in Solomons,” Greidenbrink said. According to the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Sokavare pointed out that the agreement they reached had only domestic implications. But we made it clear that this agreement could have regional security implications not only for us, but also for allies and partners across the region.
Tuesday Kritenbrink again and again If China sets up a military base, the United States is ready to operate in the region. “Of course we respect the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands, but we would be very concerned if action were taken to establish a permanent military presence, energy forecasting capability or military installation. Of course we will respond to those concerns,” he said. The White House underlined that it would intervene if necessary. In a press release The White House said:
The delegation noted that the United States would have significant concerns and would respond accordingly if action was taken to establish a permanent military presence, power-planning capabilities or a military establishment.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously called the Chinese military base in the archipelago a “red line” as far as he is concerned. His defense secretary, Peter Dutton, said in a speech on Anzac Day that Australia should be prepared for war and that China “is on a very planned course at this time.”
These are not just empty words, they are not just the Solomon Islands, 2,000 kilometers from Australia, but an important strategic point in the Pacific Ocean. They are located on the shipping route from Australia and New Zealand to Asia. The presence of Chinese naval vessels here could turn Australia’s defenses into a military disadvantage. In the event of a conflict, China could easily cut off supply routes to and from Australia.
Million dollars flirting
The tug-of-war between mighty Beijing and the impoverished archipelago of 650,000 people began with enthusiasm in 2019 when the Solomon Islands traded friendship with Taiwan for diplomatic relations with China and financial assistance. And China’s Global Economic Pet Link: Belt Road Initiative, New Silk Road. In practice, this would mean millions of Chinese investments, incentives for Chinese companies to build training, education and equipment and infrastructure for the military and police. As for the Solomon Islands, the Chinese navy in the territorial waters of the Solomon Islands will also mean the dockyard for the dock of its choice.
Interesting detail: Since February, Chinese investment, infrastructure and the public have been protected by Chinese police officers, intelligence experts and military personnel. And it is President Sokavare who can help them ‘maintain social stability’, which is not bad for him. The Solomon Islands are politically unstable, and a few years ago the island nation was still on the brink of civil war.
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