Sogavare: Talks a success; US to 'do better'
24 April 2022
NOOSA - Following what he described as a friendly and productive meeting on Friday, Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare said his country and the US were committed to strengthen their relations by working together on issues of mutual concern.
Sogavare said he had warmly welcomed Kurt Campbell, the United States coordinator for Indo–Pacific affairs, and his delegation and welcomed the US decision to re-establish an embassy in Honiara.
Campbell reassured Sogavare that the US is back in the Solomons and that it “will do better” while committing to do more in the country.
But a White House statement warned that Washington would have "significant concerns and respond accordingly" to any steps to establish a permanent Chinese military presence in the Pacific island nation.
The delegation had noted that "if steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the United States would have significant concerns and respond accordingly."
“We have no say on the Solomon Islands-China agreement,” Campbell said.
“We respect Solomon Islands sovereign decision. There is no misunderstanding.”
Sogavare said that talk of a military base had been misinformation promoted by critics of his government.
He said the Solomon Islands–China Security Cooperation agreement is not about China establishing a military base in Solomons but about supporting the state to address internal security threats.
“It is not directed at any external security interest,” he said. “The security pact complements other bilateral and regional security arrangement Solomon Islands is a party to.”
The South China Morning Post commented that, despite Sogavare's reassurances, "the security pact is seen as a major inroad for China in the Pacific – where the Solomon Islands occupy a strategic position – and troubles other Pacific powers as well.
'These include Japan, New Zealand and especially Australia, which pressed the Solomon Islands to scrap the deal."
Sogavare also acknowledged the recent signing of the US Millennium Challenge Corporation threshold program which is a major measure that will assist Solomons become eligible to enter a compact with the US to provide large five-year grants to reduce poverty through economic growth.
Campbell also said the US will provide more assistance to assist remove unexploded World War II ordnance, provide medical support and Covid vaccines and reopen the Peace Corps program.
It will also look at expanding the $US25 million Strengthening Competitiveness, Agriculture, Livelihoods and Environment (SCALE) program to provinces beyond Malaita.
These programs had been under discussion for some time and there had been anxiety in the Solomons that the US would renege on them.
Campbell acknowledged Sogavare’s outstanding leadership through the many challenges facing the young nation.
The two states said their officials will meet in September to advance identified areas of cooperation.
Source: Solomons Prime Minister’s Press Secretariat; Reuters; South China Morning Post; US White House, Washington
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.