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Solomon Islands Barred US Coast Guard Ship from Making Routine Stop

The nation’s government has a security pact with China

A United States Coast Guard ship was unable to refuel at a port in the Soloman Islands.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry, which is based in Guam, was scheduled for a port call in Guadalcanal last week but its final request for clearance was ignored by the island nation’s government.

“The Government of the Solomon Islands did not respond to the U.S. Government’s request for diplomatic clearance for the vessel to refuel and provision in Honiara,” said Lieutenant Kristin Kam, a spokeswoman for the 4th Coast Guard District in Honolulu, told Stars and Stripes. “Accordingly, CGC Oliver Henry diverted to Papua New Guinea to refuel and provision.”

“The U.S. Department of State is in contact with the Government of the Solomon Islands and expect all future clearances will be provided to U.S. ships,” Kam said. 

At the time of its request to come into port, the American ship had been patrolling the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea Exclusive Economic Zones and the Coral sea. 

According to Fox News, “a British vessel was also denied entry but the British Royal Navy has not commented directly on those reports.”

The move comes four months after the Soloman Islands entered into a security pact with China. The April announcement immediately sparked concerns that the communist nation would have increased influence in the region as tension continues to mount between China and the West.

Political leaders from New Zealand and Australia both expressed concern that the pact would increase military presence in the region and lack of transparency.

The comments were denounced by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands, who called the international reaction to the pact “very insulting” during a parliamentary address on March 29. 

“There is no intention to ask China to build a military base in Solomon Islands. We are insulted by such unfounded stories,” he said. “We are not pressured in any way by our new friends.” 

He did note that the agreement could involve protecting infrastructure built by China. 

“Some countries and their publics may not take too kindly to a certain country protecting infrastructure built by another country,” said Sogavare. “But such an attitude makes us uncomfortable. We watched Chinatown burned to ashes and attempted vandalism of the Pacific Games infrastructure. … from our perspective any infrastructure built must be protected.”

A leaked version of the pact indicated “Chinese forces [came] to Solomon Islands to ‘protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects’ as well as ‘preserve social order,’” per ABC News.

In 2019, the Soloman Islands ended its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, whose president condemned the decision.

“We sincerely regret and strongly condemn [the Solomon Islands] Government’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with China,” said President Tsai Ing-wen while speaking to the press, per ABC News. “Taiwan will not engage in dollar diplomacy with China in order to satisfy unreasonable demands. … This is not how Taiwan approaches its diplomacy, not to mention the fact that China’s promises of financial assistance often come up empty.”

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