US expresses concern over Solomon Islands security deal

US expresses concern over Solomon Islands security deal

On Monday, the United States expressed concern over a potential security deal between China and the Solomon Islands, as top U.S. diplomats headed to the South Pacific to curb Beijing's inroads.

Kurt Campbell and Daniel Kritenbrink, top officials at the National Security Council andNational Security Council and State Department, will lead the delegation to the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea this week.

A leaked draft of a security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China caused fear in the United States and Australia that Beijing will gain a military foothold in the South Pacific, including naval deployments.

Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said that the Solomon Islands did not intend to allow China to build a military base.

The broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of PRC military forces to the Solomon Islands, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, referring to the People's Republic of China.

Price believes that signing an agreement could increase destabilization in the Solomon Islands and will set a precedent for the wider Pacific Island region.

He said that the Solomon Islands were already served by its security relationship with Australia, which rushed troops into the archipelago last year after riots.

A senior Australian official visited last week and asked Sogavare not to sign the agreement with Beijing.

The United States said it was trying to show its support for the Solomon Islands, a nation of 800,000 people who has been beset by unrest and poverty.

Earlier this year, the U.S. announced that it would re-establish an embassy in the former British protectorate's capital, Honiara during a regional trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A National Security Council statement said that the US delegation will use stops in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to meet with senior government officials to ensure prosperity, security and peace across the Pacific Islands and the Indo-Pacific. The United States and its Asian allies have expressed growing concern about China assertiveness on the seas, especially in the dispute-rife waters near it.

The Solomon Islands, a World War II battlefront, recognized China only in 2019 after switching from ties with Taiwan, a self-governing democracy Beijing claims.

The U.S. delegation will be in Hawaii to meet senior U.S. military officials and regional partners at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.