Speaking online to the media, the most senior US diplomat for the region, Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink, reiterated the strong concern of Washington regarding the security pact concluded between the Solomon Islands and China on March 31. With the position of Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, he is the most senior US diplomat responsible for the area. He has just completed a visit to the Solomons that included a 90-minute meeting with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and members of his government.
He said that what was particularly troubling was the agreement was negotiated in secret and its full contents are unknown. As a sign of just how seriously the Biden administration is taking this, he was accompanied by National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Dr. Kurt Campbell, the Deputy Commander from INDOPACOM Lieutenant General Steve Sklenka and the USAID Acting Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia Craig Hart. Ambassador Kritenbrink explained:
“We told the Solomon Islands leadership that the United States would respond if steps were taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation in the Solomon Islands. Prime Minister Sogavare reiterated in his public remarks, noting specific assurances that there would be no military base, no long-term presence, and no power-projection capability. The United States emphasised that we would follow developments closely in consultation with regional partners.”
He would not be specifically drawn on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s phrase of a Chinese military base constituting a “red line” but on several occasions stressed how such a development would be of great concern. In an almost immediate response, the US is re-opening its embassy in Honiara, which was closed in 1993.