Solomon Islands denies entry to US coast guard ship
The Solomon Islands denies entry to a US coast guard ship in light of tensions between the two countries.
The Solomon Islands authorities have denied entry to US coast guard cutter (USCG) Oliver Henry for a routine logistics port call in Guadalcanal, a spokesperson for the 14th Coast Guard District in Honolulu said.
Guadalcanal is located near the country's capital city of Honiara, and this comes amid a deterioration in the ties between the United States and the Solomon Islands.
"The Government of the Solomon Islands did not respond to the U.S. Government’s request for diplomatic clearance for the vessel to refuel and provision in Honiara," Lt. Kristin Kam said in an email to US newspaper Stars and Stripes on Thursday.
GCG Oliver Henry changed its course accordingly, traveling to Papua New Guinea on Tuesday for refueling and provision, the spokesperson said. However, she did not specify when the vessel was initially expected to make the Guadalcanal port call.
"The US Department of State is in contact with the Government of the Solomon Islands and expects all future clearances will be provided to US ships," Kam added.
The US and the Solomon Islands have long been allies, with a partnership being in place since World War II. The two countries, however, have been growing colder together in recent decades, with the US going as far as shutting down its embassy in Honiara two decades ago.
Due to the wedge between Honiara and Washington, the Solomon Islands started developing ties with China in 2019, causing the United States and Australia to grow concerned.
China around mid-April signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, which prompted Australia to worry that the pact could be a step toward Chinese military presence less than 2,000 km away.
Zed Seselja, Australia's minister for international development and the Pacific, visited the Solomon Islands' capital Honiara to try to convince authorities not to sign the framework pact.
Officials of both countries denied that China had plans on building a military base on the island nation, but then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison still stressed that Beijing constructing a military base in the Solomon Islands would be a "red line" for Canberra and Washington.
The White House even warned that the United States would respond if China establishes a permanent military presence on the Solomon Islands, and a senior US official in the Pacific did not rule out military action against the Solomon Islands if Honiara allowed China to establish a military base.
Regardless, Solomon Islander Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare reassured that his country would not host a foreign military base as this would render it a target for military strikes.
The US, UK, and Australia had formed their AUKUS alliance, ignoring China's concerns on the matter. The alliance was based on enhancing Australia's nuclear capabilities through advanced technology and nuclear submarines in order to increase the alliance's strength in the South Pacific as China grows more influential in its region.