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Friday, December 09, 2022

US warns against any permanent military presence of China in Solomons

SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, Apr 22 (Reuters) – A senior-level US delegation met with the leader of the Solomon Islands on Friday and warned that Washington would be “responsible” for any move to establish a permanent Chinese military presence in the Pacific. significant concerns and respond accordingly”. Island nation.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware reiterated to the White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell-led delegation that there would be no military base, no long-term presence, and security under the agreement, a White House statement said. There will be no power projection capability. with China.

The White House gave no indication of what the US response would be to such an incident, but its blunt tone indicated the level of US concern that led Campbell’s mission to the remote island country this week .

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“If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-launching capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the United States would then have significant concerns and would respond accordingly,” it said.

“The United States stressed that it will closely follow the development in consultation with regional partners.”

The statement said the US delegation outlined specific steps Washington has taken to advance the welfare of the Solomon people, including expediting the opening of an embassy there, promoting cooperation on unexplained ordnance, and addressing health issues. To address involves sending the Mercy Hospital ship. It said Washington would also provide more vaccines and advance climate and health initiatives.

It said the two sides had “substantial discussions” on the security deal with China.

“Delegates from the Solomon Islands indicated that the agreement had only domestic applications, but the US delegation noted that the agreement has potential regional security implications, including the United States and its allies and partners,” the statement said.

Days after Solomon and China said the delegation met with Sogaware in Solomon’s capital Honiara, they said they had signed a security agreement, with a deal from the island country despite a flurry of calls from Washington and its allies. urged not to proceed, which he fears will greatly expand the reach of China’s military in the region.

The Solomon Islands occupy a strategic position in the Pacific and were the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in that theater of World War II.

On Wednesday, Sogaware told parliament that the deal would not undermine peace, allaying international concerns. read more

The US embassy in Papua New Guinea said Campbell discussed security agreements with neighboring Fiji and Papua New Guinea before his visit to Honiara.

Australian officials said Campbell’s visit may have prompted China and the Solomon Islands to announce a deal.

While Sogaware has denied hosting a Chinese military base, US allies Australia and New Zealand have expressed concerns that the agreement would undermine regional security, allowing Chinese naval ships to refuel in the Solomons.

Full details have not been disclosed, but the agreement will allow Chinese police to protect Chinese-funded infrastructure projects after four people were killed in riots last year in the country.

Sogaware joined China’s ambassador Li Ming on Friday to hand over an athletics field donated by China, one of the total $120 million sports facilities that China has earmarked for Solomon to host the 2023 Pacific Games. paid to help.

Solomon switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, and Sogaware said in a speech at the ceremony that the decision “put the country on the right side of history”.

Lee defended the security agreement.

“Development and security are two sides of a coin. Without safety and security, countries cannot enjoy sustainable development and economic growth. This was demonstrated by the riots last year,” he said in a speech.

For Australia, the security agreement raises the possibility of a Chinese military presence less than 2,000 km (1,200 mi) from its shores. read more

New Zealand and Tonga have said they will raise the issue at an upcoming meeting of the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Kyodo news agency reported, while Japan plans to send a deputy foreign minister to the Solomon Islands this month.

Experts said the United States would have some attractive options to respond to any Chinese move toward building a permanent military presence in the Solomons.

“You can reduce aid, which will only throw the Solomon Islands into the Chinese embrace,” said Dean Cheng, a China expert at the Conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst focusing on the Indo-Pacific for the RAND Corporation think tank, said the United States could accelerate opportunities to monitor Chinese forces in northeastern Australia or conduct more naval patrols in the region.

“That’s not to say that any of these options will work. They probably won’t,” Grossman said. “I think the US and Australia were too late in the game here, and China got its first safety foothold in Oceania.”

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Reporting by Christy Needham in Sydney and David Brunstrom, Michael Martina and Chris Gallagher in Washington; Editing by William Mallard, Robert Birsel and Jonathan Otis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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