The relationship forming between China and the Solomon Islands has the United States raising the alarm about the security deal the two nations are working on in the South Pacific. Top diplomats are heading to the region, in response to the influence that China now has in the area.
National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, and assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink are leading the delegation according to reports from the White House.
The delegates will also visit Fiji and Papua New Guinea, after it became known that the Solomon Islands had signed a draft, detailing a bilateral security deal with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Parts of the document have been leaked and it states that Beijing is allowed to send naval and security forces to the Solomon Islands, getting an immediate response from Australia and New Zealand. Both nations expressed concern about the CCP moving military forces so close to their backyards. Australia is only 1,200 miles from the Solomon Islands.
The Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, allegedly told his parliament that there “is no intention to ask China to build a military base,” and insisted that the country was “not pressured in any way by our new friends.”
Australian Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselia, was sent to the Solomon Islands in hopes of convincing the country to scrap the deal with China. He was accompanied by other South Pacific peacekeeper delegates from New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
“We have asked Solomon Islands respectfully to consider not signing the agreement and to consult the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency, consistent with our region’s security frameworks,” Seselja said in a statement.
The Solomon Islands inviting China to be bedfellows, could be very dangerous for nations like Australia. China has threatened several times that they will invade Australia and they’ve been buying up mining land all over Australia for decades now, positioning themselves into a power position.
The U.S State Department spokesman Ned Price, stated that the tensions within the region are only going to increase and the move to partner with China, could end up backfiring on the Solomon Islands.
“Despite the Solomon Islands government’s comments, the broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of [Chinese] military forces to the Solomon Islands,” Price said at a press briefing. “We believe that signing such an agreement could increase destabilization within the Solomon Islands and will set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific Island region.”
There has also been rumors of bribes and kickbacks after the Solomon Islands Prime Minister decided to switch diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in 2019. Riots broke out last year, as the rising tensions finally boiled over.
In February, the State Department announced that they are reopening the U.S embassy in the Solomon Islands, which has been officially closed down for over 30 years. The move comes as Washington grows increasingly concerned about the amount of power and influence China holds in the South Pacific.