Solomon Islands’ prime minister has complained that his country has been subjected to “a deluge of unwarranted and misplaced criticism, misinformation and intimidation” since formalizing diplomatic ties with China in 2019.
In an address to the UN General Assembly in New York, Manasseh Damukana Sogavare said the Solomons had been “unfairly targeted” and “vilified” in the media. He said such treatment “threatens our democracy and our sovereignty”.
The Solomons previously had diplomatic relations with self-governing and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, but shifted recognition to Beijing in 2019. It has since appeared to move ever closer to China’s orbit, to states’ alarm. States and other Western countries concerned about Beijing. concepts of security in the Pacific.
“This decision was made through democratic processes by a democratically elected government,” Sogavare said of China’s recognition. “I reiterate the call on all to respect our sovereignty and our democracy.”
Mr Sogavare said the Solomon Islands had adopted “a foreign policy of friends of all and enemies of no one”.
“In implementing this policy, we will not align ourselves with any outside power or security architecture that targets us or any other sovereign country or threatens regional and international peace. The Solomon Islands will not be forced to choose sides” , did he declare.
“Our struggle is to develop our country. We extend the hand of friendship and seek genuine and honest cooperation and partnership with all.”
The Pacific Islands region has become a new theater of geopolitical competition between China and the United States and its allies.
That competition intensified this year after China signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands, prompting warnings of a militarization of the region.
Mr. Sogavare has since appeared to repeatedly snub the United States, heightening concerns in Washington.
Last month, I skipped a scheduled appearance with a senior US official at a World War II commemoration.
His government then failed to respond to a request from a US Coast Guard vessel to refuel and then announced it was barring all foreign navy vessels from port access – despite hosted a US Navy hospital ship on a humanitarian mission.
Sogavare has been invited to attend a summit next week that US President Joe Biden will host with Pacific Island leaders, through which Washington aims to show increased commitment to the Pacific region.
Mr Biden’s chief policy coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell, said this week he looked forward to conversations with Sogavare and said the Solomons would benefit from a variety of new initiatives planned.
However, he added: “We’ve also been clear on our concerns and wouldn’t want to see…a long-range power-projection capability.”
Beijing and Honiara have said there will be no Chinese military base under the security pact, although a leaked plan refers to Chinese navy ships resupplying in the strategically located archipelago.