White House sending security official to Solomons, alarmed over Beijing treaty
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Alarmed over the Solomon Islands' pending security pact with China, the White House will send a top security official to the Pacific country this month presumably to try to block the deal that has been creating tension in the region.
The Financial Times reported that Kurt Campbell, National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, will fly to the Solomon Islands in a rare high-level visit.
A draft agreement, which was leaked before being finalized, revealed Beijing's plan to station navy ships and defense forces in the Solomon Islands to protect billions of dollars in Chinese infrastructure investment.
The pending treaty emerged months after Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Washington's plan to open a U.S. embassy in Honoria.
The Solomon Islands first raised alarm in Washington when it dumped Taiwan and switched to China in 2019. Honiara's deal with Beijing is now triggering anxiety among its neighbors in the region.
Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo earlier asked Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to reconsider his pact with Beijing, warning that it would further drag the Pacific islands into the geopolitical conflicts among the world's superpowers.
At last week's military budget hearing held by the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the Biden administration's $773 billion defense budget request was focused on addressing threats to homeland security, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.
"The People’s Republic of China is the department’s pacing challenge due to its coercive and increasingly aggressive efforts to refashion the Indo-Pacific region and the international system to suit its interests and preferences," Austin told the committee.
He noted that China has expanded and modernized nearly every aspect of the People’s Liberation Army, including its conventional forces and nuclear capabilities, with a focus on offsetting U.S. military advantages.
"(China) seeks to fragment U.S. alliances and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, and the PRC’s leaders hope to leverage their economic influence and the PLA’s growing military strength to coerce China’s neighbors and threaten their vital national interests," Austin said.