After refusing access to US and UK ships to its ports earlier this month, the Solomon Islands has now temporarily halted all naval visits.
How did China enter the picture?
- Earlier this year, the Solomon Islands established a security agreement with China, saying it needed Beijing’s assistance with its domestic security situation. But the announcement had rattled the US, Australia and others in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The concerns were that the agreement could potentially “lead to a Chinese military base on the island nation.
What is behind China’s growing influence in the region?
- There is no dispute that China has been rapidly increasing its presence and influence in the region for over three decades, particularly in the South Pacific.
- Specifically, it sees the region as a critical air freight hub in its so-called Air Silk Road, which connects Asia with Central and South America.
- The Solomon Islands’ strategic location in the Pacific would be advantageous for China from a military perspective. The report said “the United States and its regional allies, such as Australia and New Zealand, are concerned that the China-Solomon Islands security pact allows Chinese naval vessels to replenish there.
Back to Basics
About Solomon Islands
- Solomon Islands is an island country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
- Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal.
- It consists of a double chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in Melanesia.
- The island is a constitutional monarchy, with the British monarch, represented by a governor-general, serving as the formal head of state.
- Still, the country, a member of the Commonwealth, is independent, and the governor-general is appointed on the advice of the unicameral National Parliament.
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