China’s influence on the Solomon Islands worries the US

INTERNATIONAL – A worrying military establishment by China. US envoys carrying the . visits Solomon Islands warned this Friday, April 22, of any Chinese “military installation” in the Pacific archipelago, which recently signed a comprehensive security agreement with Beijing

Earlier this week, the Solomons and Beijing announced the signing of a vaguely outlined security pact that addressed fears United Statesbut alsoAustralianeighbor of the archipelago, overlooking the potential Chinese military ambitions in this region of the world.

Against this tense backdrop, the US high-level delegation, led by Kurt Campbell and Daniel Kritenbrink of the White House and the Asia-Pacific State Department, landed at the airport in the capital Honiara on Friday, an AFP correspondent noted.

The diplomats, received for 90 minutes by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, could only repeat the American warnings, stunned by the formalization on Tuesday of the signing of the controversial agreement.

They warned that if Beijing were to move towards “establishing a de facto permanent military presence,” a “military installation” or “force projection capabilities” that would enable Chinese deployment in the region, it would raise “serious concerns.” in the United States. States that “(would) retaliate accordingly,” the White House said in a statement.

A leaked draft of the deal last month sent shockwaves through Australia and the United States as it contained proposals that would allow Chinese police and naval deployment to the Solomons. Since then, they have increased diplomatic efforts against this rapprochement in vain.

Power struggle between China and the United States

Canberra and Washington have long been concerned about the possibility of China building a naval base in the South Pacific, allowing it to project its naval power far beyond its borders.

France also found this agreement “worrying” on Thursday and worried about “Chinese ambitions” in the Asia-Pacific region. French territory, New Caledonia is located 500 km south of the nearest coast of the Solomon Islands.

“In response to the concerns expressed, Prime Minister Sogavare reiterated his assurances, specifically assuring that there would be no military base, no sustained presence and no power-projection capabilities,” the statement said. “The United States emphasized that it would closely monitor developments.”

But the Americans have also tried to win over the islands by multiplying gestures towards them. Among them, the acceleration of the opening of a US Embassystrengthening cooperation on unexploded mines, sending a hospital ship for public health assistance or even supplying additional vaccines.

The two countries also committed to launching a “high-level strategic dialogue”, which will focus in particular on the sensitive issue of security.

Sign that the archipelago is at the center of attention: At the time of the arrival of the US delegation, the Chinese ambassador and Manasseh Sogavare inaugurated an athletic track that is part of a huge sports complex funded by China to host the 2023 Pacific Games organize .

The Solomon Islands had been rocked by deadly riots in late 2021, fueled by the resentment of some of the population against growing Chinese influence. Chinese-owned businesses were vandalized and set on fire in Honiara.

Beijing, which had sent police instructors and anti-riot gear, has since tried to bolster its defense system in the archipelago. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that China was exerting “enormous pressure” on the island nation’s leaders.

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