China moves toward control of key shipping lanes with Solomon Islands deal

China moves toward control of key shipping lanes with Solomon Islands deal
Joe Biden, Xi Jinping

China is moving toward taking control of key shipping lanes, through control of the strife-torn Solomon Islands, says Jazz Shaw at Hot Air: “the Solomon Islands have entered into a ‘security pact’ with China. News of negotiations between Beijing and the Solomon Islands … appeared to catch the Biden administration flat-footed. An American delegation was dispatched to the island nation for discussions with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, but before they could even arrive to negotiate, China announced that the deal had already been signed. This is not good news, to put it mildly.”

The deal allows China to send troops “to assist in maintaining social order” in the Solomon Islands, effectively replacing pro-American nations like Australia in that role. The Solomon Islands suffered from civil war in the past (1998-2003) that Australian troops helped bring to an end, and in November 2021 there was mass rioting and unrest. Given how commonly unrest occurs in the Solomon Islands, China could easily use this pact as an excuse to send troops into the Solomon Islands and turn it into a protectorate and military base to use against the U.S.

NBC News reports:

A tiny island chain in the South Pacific has Western governments scrambling after it agreed to a security pact with China that the United States and its allies fear could enhance Beijing’s military power in this strategically important region.

The deal between China and the Solomon Islands, a nation of 700,000 people that had deadly riots last year, poses “serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” officials from the U.S., Australia, Japan and New Zealand said in a statement on Wednesday.

Alarm in Washington and other capitals is so high that on Friday the highest-level U.S. delegation in years visited the Solomon Islands. Kurt Campbell, the top White House official for Asia, and Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, met with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in Honiara, the capital.

Campbell had been expected to warn Sogavare against the deal, the details of which have not been publicly disclosed, but that was pre-empted days before his visit when Beijing and Honiara announced they had already signed it. According to a draft leaked online in March, the deal allows China to send police and armed forces to the Solomon Islands “to assist in maintaining social order” and Chinese warships to make stopovers there.

The deal is a “game changer,” said Anne-Marie Brady, a China expert at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

“The U.S. is the main target of this move, as it aims to counter U.S. containment strategy in the Indo-Pacific,” she said. “But it also directly threatens the security and autonomy of the island states of the Pacific, as well as Australia and New Zealand.”

Among their concerns is that the deal could enable China to set up a military base — its first in the Pacific — less than 1,300 miles from Australia, whose relations with Beijing are at their lowest point in years. The Solomon Islands also sit on key shipping lanes between the U.S. and Asia.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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