As a result of a security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands, the United States has voiced worry that the accord would allow Chinese military soldiers to deploy to the Pacific island in the near future.
During a news conference, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, “We feel that signing such an agreement might actually enhance destabilisation inside the Solomon Islands and potentially establish a troubling precedent for the larger Pacific Island area.”
“It goes without saying that we are worried about this,” he said.
This comes only a few days after US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele to discuss preparations to restore the US Embassy in Honiara as well as “shared efforts to widen and deepen engagement” between the two nations, according to US officials.
The island nation is being targeted because it may become China’s military base in the South Pacific, according to the United Nations. In 1993, the United States withdrew its embassy from the Soloman Islands. The Solomon Islands severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic ties with China in January of this year.
Australia and New Zealand have expressed their dissatisfaction with the security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China, which they believe would enable the People’s Liberation Army to establish a foothold in the Indo-Pacific.
Increasing Chinese military action and influence in the Indo-Pacific, say experts, may destabilise the area since the island might be used as a stopover for Chinese forces resupplying for battle elsewhere.
According to the Washington Times, Australia has also said that China has aspirations to create a naval station in the Solomon Islands in order to scare the continent.
In response to growing concerns about Chinese military activity in the Solomon Islands, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she saw little reason for China to maintain a military presence in the Pacific region. She urged leaders of island countries not to look outside their Pacific family for military and security assistance.
According to the Washington Times, China was interested in increasing its military presence and influence in the Solomon Islands, and under the terms of this agreement, they would be able to send police or armed forces to the island nation to do so.
The Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, said earlier this month that his nation would not ask China to create a military facility in the country. Even China has denied that it is attempting to establish a military presence in the region.
Although the Solomon Islands government has expressed concern, the wide nature of the security pact leaves the door open for the deployment of PRC military personnel to the Solomon Islands, according to an official from China’s foreign ministry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
As the spokesman said, “we fear that signing such an agreement would exacerbate instability in the Solomon Islands and will create a troubling precedent for the larger Pacific Island area.”