The United States on Friday raised significant concern over the deal signed between Solomon Islands PM Manasseh Sogavare and China that ensures security cooperation between both nations. A high-level delegation from the US on April 22 visited the Solomon Islands to meet PM Sogavare, outlining Washington’s steps to advance the welfare of the people in the island country. The Solomon Islands was the last stop for the two dozens of diplomats before concluding their trip across the Pacific.

According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the delegates held discussions with Sogavare for about 90 minutes highlighting the areas of concern concerning the purpose, scope, and transparency of the agreement between Beijing and Honiara (capital of Solomon Islands). At the meeting, Solomon Islands representatives stressed that the deal was “solely domestic applications,” however, the US noted that there are corners of “potential regional security implications of the accord.”

“The United States respects the right of nations to make sovereign decisions in the best interests of their people. The two sides engaged in substantial discussion around the recently signed security agreement between the Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” the White House said in a statement, quoting minutes of the meeting.

The US delegates also wanted to expedite the opening of the US embassy in Honiara. In addition, Washington hoped that both the countries will enhance strategic dialogue and programs on the maritime domain awareness apart from other wide range of initiatives. Apart from the US, Australia and New Zealand have also raised concerns about the security in the Pacific region over the deal. The highly secure pact is said to solve the “internal security situation” of the Solomon Islands, according to PM Sogavare, and not “undermine peace and harmony” along the Pacific.

China to face ‘adequate response’ should it maintain military presence in Solomon Islands: US

White House on Friday also warned China of “adequate response” should they maintain a military presence in the Solomon Islands under the security deal signed with the island nation. Speaking at the delegation-level meeting, the US representatives stated, “If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the US would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly.”

This came after the Australian government verified leaked documents of the agreement, which noted that the deal allowed Chinese warships to be docked on island shores and Beijing could assist social order on the island that has been rife with civil unrest for years. Last November, the riots turned ugly when protestors stormed the Solomon Islands Parliament to topple Sogavare. Australia had sent troops to restore peace on the island.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin defended the security agreement saying that “it does not impact a third party.”

Image: AP