United States President Joe Biden is reportedly sending one of his top officials to the Solomon Islands as concerns mount over a soon-to-be-signed security deal with China.
- The Financial Times reports Kurt Campbell will travel to the Solomon Islands this month
- He will also be accompanied by a top US State Department official, Daniel Krittenbrink.
- Australia’s defense minister says China’s assurance not to build military port in Solomon Islands is not credible
Last month, a senior Australian defense figure warned that a Chinese naval presence in the strategically located Pacific nation would “change the calculus” for Australia’s military.
This week, two of Australia’s top intelligence officials, Australian Secret Intelligence Service boss Paul Simon and Director General of National Intelligence, Andrew Shearer, met with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware of the Solomon Islands.
According to the Financial Times, Kurt Campbell – who serves as the US National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific – will now also visit the small Pacific nation in April.
According to the Financial Times, Mr Campbell will be accompanied by a top State Department official, Daniel Krittenbrink, for the trip.
Under a leaked draft of the China-Solomon Islands deal, Beijing will be allowed to deploy naval ships and defense personnel to protect the developing country with billions of dollars in Chinese infrastructure investments.
On Tuesday, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Samuel J. Paparo, criticized the potential security deal, describing it as a “secret” arrangement that worried the US and its allies.
Dutton says China’s assurances are not sincere
Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton says China’s assurances that it was not seeking to establish a military port less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia were not credible.
“At the moment, they are telling the Solomon Islands government that the Solomon Islands will not have a military port. I highly doubt it, and I don’t think it’s honest, and I think it’s propaganda that should be called out, said Mr Dutton.
Mr Dutton, however, declined to say whether he or any other government frontbenchers had recently spoken to any Solomon Islands leader about Australia’s concerns.
“As you know, the Director of National Security and the head of ASIS have been speaking recently [to] Prime Minister Sogaware,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Townsville.
“There have been a lot of contacts through our High Commissioner and through the DFAT, and on [Federal] Police Commissioner level, and there are many other ways we’ve been able to reach, both privately and some of which have been publicly disclosed.”
Last month, addressing the Solomon Islands parliament, Mr Sogaware announced that he had no plans to allow China to build a naval or military base in his country, saying the suggestion was “misinformation”.