The government of the Solomon Islands has assured the U.S. that it would not host a Chinese military base, according to an April 22 White House statement.

Earlier that day, Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had held a 90-minute meeting with a "high-level" U.S. delegation, the statement said. The White House said there had been "substantial discussion" about "the recently signed security agreement between the Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China (PRC)."

Possible Chinese 'power projection capability'

"Prime Minister Sogavare reiterated his specific assurances that there would be no military base, no long-term presence, and no power projection capability, as he has said publicly," the White House 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 United States would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly," the White House said.

The statement also said U.S. President Joe Biden would hasten to open an embassy in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. The White House mentioned the following "specific steps the United States would take to advance the welfare of the people of Solomon Islands":

  • The U.S. would send the Mercy hospital ship to bolster public health in the Solomon Islands.
  • Discussions about the return of the Peace Corps to the island nation would go forward.
  • More vaccines would be supplied.
  • "Initiatives on climate, health, and people-to-people ties" would be taken.

The U.S.

delegation had been led by Kurt Campbell, the Indo-Pacific Coordinator for the National Security Council, and Daniel Kritenbrink, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific, the White House said. Craig Hart, the USAID Acting Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia, and Lieutenant General Stephen Sklenka, the Deputy Commander INDOPACOM, had also played leading roles in the delegation, the White House said.

The entire statement about the visit to the Solomon Islands can be viewed on the White House website.

Concerns that Biden has 'outsourced' policy on Indo-Pacific to Australia

Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, Washington correspondent Farrah Tomazin said there were concerns in the American capital that Biden "has outsourced regional policy in the Pacific to Australia" due to his preoccupation with the War in Ukraine.

Tomazin noted that the United States had closed its embassy in the Solomon Islands almost 30 years ago.

Concern over China's growing presence in the Indo-Pacific had led Australia and the U.S. to thwart the finalization of the security pact, Tomazin said. In a separate report, The Sydney Morning Herald said Australian intelligence officials had obtained a copy of the security pact before it had been finalized. The paper said the officials had decided to leak the document's contents to the press as a last-minute attempt to derail the agreement between China and the Solomon Islands.

'Things are changing'

Two days before the White House statement, Biden spoke to a group of military leaders.

He said, "The strategic environment is evolving rapidly in the world, but that means our plans and force posture have to be equally dynamic. Things are changing." Concerns for national security and the security of America's allies required the U.S. "to constantly adapt to anything and everything that’s happening around the world," he said.

Much of what Biden had to say concerned the invasion of Ukraine. He said that America's allies played an important role in protecting democratic values against authoritarian aggression. "And the same is true of the Indo-Pacific, where our allies are the foundation for the future we want to see in that vital region of the world," he said. Biden's remarks can be found on the White House website.

'Democracy and prosperity in the Pacific'

Before arriving in the Solomon Islands, the U.S. delegation had visited Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the White House noted. When National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson announced the delegation's departure on April 18, she said the trip would advance the American "commitment to democracy and prosperity in the Pacific," contained in Biden's Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States. The White House released that 19-page document in February. It can be seen, along with Watson's comments, on the White House website.

Five objectives were put forth in the document:

  • Promoting "a free and open Indo-Pacific."
  • Establishing "connections within and beyond the region."
  • Advancing "regional prosperity."
  • Strengthening security in the region.
  • Bolstering "regional resilience to transnational threats."

The documents spelled out "core lines of effort" to be followed in the following two years to meet those goals.

One of those was the expansion of cooperation among the United States, South Korea, and Japan. "Increasingly, we will seek to coordinate our regional strategies in a trilateral context," the document said. Supporting India's "continued rise and regional leadership" was another core line of effort in the strategy. India was "a like-minded partner" and "an engine for regional growth and development," the document said.

The strategy also called for deterring "military aggression against our own country and our allies and partners – including across the Taiwan Strait." In addition, the document said the government would develop ties with ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

Japan is also worried

The Japan Times reported on April 22 that Japan was also worried about the possibility of China establishing a military presence in the Solomon Islands. The paper said there were reports that Shingo Miyake, Japan's parliamentary vice foreign minister, might go to the Solomon Islands before the end of this month.

The Guardian reported on April 23 that the text of the security pact had yet to be made public.

However, the paper said a draft of the agreement had stated that Chinese ships would be allowed to visit the Solomon Islands. The draft had also noted that the Solomon Islands government would be able to call upon Chinese police to maintain order in the island nation, the paper said. The Guardian recalled that Australia's opposition Labor Party had called the government's failure to stop the pact the worst foreign policy mistake made by an Australian government since World War II.