The US Will Respond Accordingly If Solomon Islands allows China To Establish Base There
SOLOMON ISLANDS - Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs says that the United States would 'respond accordingly' if the Solomon Islands allows China to Establish a military base there.
Kritenbrink said that the security deal between the Solomon Islands and China presents 'potential regional security implications' for the United States and its allies.
The ambassador was part of a high-level US delegation to the Solomon Islands last week and said that his team had a 'constructive and candid' meeting with prime minister Manasseh Sogavare, at which time his team spoke of concerns regarding their recently signed security deal with China.
"We wanted to outline for our friends in the Solomons, what our concerns are. Prime minister Sogavare indicated that in the Solomon Island's view, the agreement they’ve concluded has solely domestic implications. But we’ve made clear that there are potential regional security implications of the agreement not just for ourselves, but for allies and partners across the region.”
On Tuesday Kritenbrink repeated the willingness of the United States to act if the Solomon Islands allow China to establish a military base. "Of course, we have respect for the Solomon Islands sovereignty, but we also wanted to let them know that if steps were taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power projection capabilities, or a military installation, then we would have significant concerns, and we would very naturally respond to those concerns" he stated.
He was then asked what kind of response the United States would carry out, to which he said "Look, I’m not going to speculate and I’m not in a position to talk about what the United States may or may not do in such a situation".
Last week, the Biden administration had stated that the United States would "respond accordingly" if the Solomon Islands were to allow China to establish a long term military presence there, and noted assurances from Sogavare that the Solomon Islands had no intention of allowing China to build a military base there.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had said that Australia has "the same red line" as the United States does when it comes to China's involvement in the Solomon Islands. Australian Prime Minister Peter Dutton also said on Monday that, "Australia should prepare for war" and said that China is "on a very deliberate course at the moment".
Kritenbrink also spoke of China's military aspirations and said, "I think it’s important in this context, to keep in mind that we do know that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] is seeking to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basic infrastructure that would allow the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] to project and sustain military power at greater distances. So we wanted to have that candid conversation with our friends in the Solomons. We outlined our concerns … and we’ve indicated that we’ll continue to monitor the situation closely and continue to engage with them going forward".
The security deal that was signed between the Solomon Islands and China has been kept secret, although the Solomon Islands MPs have requested that the Prime Minister release the text so that it is available to the public.
Kritenbrink said, "I think it’s clear that only a handful of people in a very small circle have seen this agreement. And the prime minister himself has been quoted publicly as saying he would only share the details with China’s permission, which I think is a source of concern as well".
A draft of the agreement however was leaked out onto social media last month and revealed that it allows China to "make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in the Solomon Islands".
"The United States of America is not in the business of asking countries to choose between the United States and China or anyone else", Kritenbrink said. He added, however, that it is interested in promoting "a proactive vision for again the shared interests and principles that we believe are vital to all of our friends across the region".