The US has announced that senior foreign policy officials will visit the Solomon Islands this week to keep the pressure on the government there to scrap a security deal the country has been discussing with China.
US National Security Council (NSC) Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell will lead a delegation of American officials to the Solomon Islands in coming days, according to a statement from NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson released on Monday (18 April). The tour will also include Hawaii, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. “The delegation will meet with senior government officials to ensure our partnerships deliver prosperity, security, and peace across the Pacific Islands and the Indo-Pacific,” Watson said. Campbell’s visit comes one week after Australia’s Pacific Minister Zed Seselja made a trip to the Solomon Islands, where he publicly asked the Pacific nation’s leadership to “consider” not signing the security pact with Beijing.
The pressure from Australia and the US comes after a draft agreement surfaced in late March between the Chinese government and the Solomon Islands that would allow the deployment of China’s security forces in the case of domestic unrest. The agreement could also allow a safe harbour for Chinese naval vessels just 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) from the Australian coastline, according to reports. Australia and the US have long been concerned about Beijing negotiating a military base in the Pacific, which would allow the Chinese government to operate its forces in much closer proximity to both countries.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said earlier on Australian television that the government was concerned about a “lack of transparency” in the security agreement, according to media reports. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has insisted the pact would not allow China to construct a military base and has strongly asserted his country’s right to an independent foreign policy, the reports said.