China’s foothold in Solomon Islands could lead to US military action An official from the United States Pacific Command has refused to rule out military action against the Solomon Islands if the country agrees to allow China to establish a military base there, claiming that the security agreement between the countries had “potential regional security implications” for the United States and its allies in the region.
China’s foothold in Solomon Islands could lead to US military action
A high-level delegation from the United States to the Pacific country was led by Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who was in the country last week.
He claimed that the US team, which included Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, had a 90-minute “constructive and candid” meeting with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, during which the US team expressed concerns about a recent security agreement with China that was recently signed.
“We wanted to make it clear to our friends in the Solomon Islands what our concerns are,” Kritenbrink explained. President Sogavare stated that the accord reached by Solomon Islands’ leaders had only local ramifications in his country’s opinion. However, we have made it clear that the agreement may have regional security consequences not only for ourselves, but also for our allies and partners throughout the area.”
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the United States’ preparedness to intervene in the region if China establishes a military facility.
The statement continued, “Of course, we respect the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands, but we also wanted to let them know that if steps were taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power projection capabilities, or a military installation, we would have significant concerns, and we would very naturally respond to those concerns.”
Upon being asked what he thought that reaction may entail, he responded, “Look, I’m not going to speculate, and I’m not in a position to comment about what the United States might or might not do in such a case.”
Upon being asked whether he would rule out the possibility of the United States intervening militarily in the Solomon Islands in the event that a naval base were to be established, and if not, whether he agreed with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s assertion that the base would be a “red line” for Australia, he responded, “I don’t have much more to say beyond what I’ve already stated.”
Earlier this week, the Biden administration stated that the United States would “act appropriately” if China were to establish a long-term presence on the islands, despite assurances from Sogavare that he did not want to build a military facility on the islands.
Following the statement, the rhetoric increased, with the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, declaring that Australia had “the same red line” as the United States when it came to China’s involvement in the Solomon Islands, and defence minister Peter Dutton declaring that Australia should “prepare for war,” claiming that China was “on a very deliberate course” at the time of his Anzac Day address on Monday.
“I think it’s important in this context to remember that we do know that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] is seeking to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basic infrastructure that would allow the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] to project and sustain military power over greater distances,” Kritenbrink said. As a result, we wanted to have an open and honest discussion with our friends in the Solomon Islands. We identified our main points of concern… as well as stating our intention to constantly monitor the issue and interact with them in the future,” he said.
Despite calls from Solomon Islands lawmakers for the prime minister to make the content of the security agreement signed by China and the Solomon Islands public, the deal’s text remains a closely guarded secret.
“I believe it is apparent that this agreement has only been observed by a tiny group of persons within a very small circle. “In addition, the prime minister himself has been cited publicly as indicating that he would only reveal the specifics with China’s approval, which I believe is a matter of concern as well,” Kritenbrink continued.
On the other hand, an unfinished form of the agreement was leaked on social media last month, and it featured clauses allowing China to “make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, as well as have stopover and transition in the Solomon Islands.”
“The United States of America is not in the business of requiring countries to choose between the United States and China or anyone else,” Kritenbrink stated. That said, it is interested in promoting “a proactive vision for again the shared interests and principles that we believe are vital to all of our friends across the region,” as well as “a proactive vision for again the shared interests and principles that we believe are vital to all of our friends across the region.”