The US delegation warned that the country would respond if China established a military base on the Solomon Islands after signing a security treaty.
The White House said on April 22 that a high-level US delegation told the leaders of the Solomon Islands that the treaty they recently signed with China “has a potential impact on regional security” for Washington and its allies. .
“The delegation noted that if steps are taken to establish a permanent military presence, the ability to project military power or the actual deployment of military bases, the United States will express serious concern and raise respond accordingly,” the White House said.
National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink led the US delegation to Hawaii, Fiji, and Papua. New Guinea and Solomon Islands this week.
The US delegation arrived in the Solomon Islands a day after China confirmed the signing of a wide-ranging security treaty with the Pacific island nation. The treaty is seen as part of China’s efforts to gain diplomatic influence and strategic positioning throughout the Pacific, as well as its trade routes.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare reassured the US and its ally Australia that the deal with China did not include setting up any military bases.
“Mr Sogavare reiterated his specific assurance that there would be no military bases, a permanent military presence, and the ability to project military force,” the White House said. “The United States will closely monitor developments in consultation with partners in the region.”
During a 90-minute meeting with Prime Minister Sogavare and about 20 Solomon Islands cabinet members, the US delegation discussed promoting the opening of an embassy in the Pacific island nation, as well as supporting medical care, provide vaccines and strengthen people-to-people ties between the two countries.
China announced on April 19 that it had signed a framework agreement on security cooperation with the Solomon Islands, and accused Western countries of “deliberately exaggerating tensions” over the treaty. China affirmed that security cooperation with the Solomon Islands “is a normal exchange and cooperation between two independent sovereign countries”.
Under the draft security agreement revealed in March, Chinese ships will be allowed to conduct logistics, stopover and transit activities in the Solomon Islands. China could also deploy “appropriate forces” to protect its personnel and projects in the Solomon Islands.
The agreement also states that the Solomon Islands can require China to send its armed police, soldiers and law enforcement forces to the Pacific island nation to carry out humanitarian or security missions. Without the other party’s written consent, neither party will be allowed to disclose these duties.
The security cooperation agreement between China and the Solomon Islands was negotiated in the context of increasing bilateral relations. The Solomon Islands announced it was cutting ties with Taiwan after a meeting between Prime Minister Sogavare and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. China is also the largest trading partner of the Solomon Islands and exempts 97 percent of the goods from the archipelago from duty.
The United States and Australia have long been concerned about China’s ability to build a naval base in the South Pacific that would allow its navy to project power far beyond its borders. Any Chinese military presence in the Pacific could force Australia and the United States to change their military posture in the region.
Nguyen Tien (Theo AFP)