Sun, 27 Nov 2022

The Solomon Islands has informed its regional neighbors that it will not sign a declaration between the United States and Pacific Island nations at this week's high-profile White House summit.

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The Solomon Islands sent a diplomatic note to the regional Pacific Islands Forum announcing it will not sign the declaration during the two-day summit that begins Wednesday.

The declaration, which was drafted after several weeks of negotiations between Pacific island nations and officials with the administration of President Joe Biden, covers such key issues including sustainable development, tackling climate change, preserving security of the Pacific region and trade.

But the note from Honiara says the government needs more time to study the declaration and that it would have to be considered by parliament.

FILE - A display case of photos is seen outside the Chinese embassy in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on April 2, 2022. FILE - A display case of photos is seen outside the Chinese embassy in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on April 2, 2022.

In High-Level US Visit to Solomon Islands, China Looms Large

The Solomon Islands' refusal to sign the declaration comes just five months after it signed a security agreement with China that has raised concerns in the United States and Australia that Beijing would establish a military presence in the Solomon Islands, located less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia. A draft of the agreement that emerged on social media included a provision that could allow Beijing to send armed police and soldiers to the Solomon Islands, as well as base its navy ships off the Solomon's coast.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare insisted he would not allow the creation of a Chinese military base, saying the deal instead will help provide domestic security.

A U.S. delegation sent to Honiara failed to convince Sogavare not to sign the security pact.

FILE - Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman arrives at the Capitol in Washington, March 30, 2022. The U.S. will soon send a diplomatic delegation to the Solomon Islands, led by Sherman and including Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy. FILE - Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman arrives at the Capitol in Washington, March 30, 2022. The U.S. will soon send a diplomatic delegation to the Solomon Islands, led by Sherman and including Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy.

Worries About China Cloud Run-Up to US Visit to Solomons

Vice President Kamala Harris told the Pacific Islands Forum back in July that the United States is planning to appoint an envoy to the Forum and open new embassies in Tonga and Kiribati as part of a pledge that the U.S. would increase its diplomatic and financial support to the Pacific region. She also announced the administration had requested $60 million a year from the U.S. Congress that would triple current funding for fisheries assistance, marine conservation and climate resilience projects for the region.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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