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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Ben Westcott

US disappointed after Solomons ignores coast guard request

The U.S. government said it’s disappointed by the Solomon Islands’ decision to ignore a “routine” request by a coast guard vessel to dock, as relations continue to deteriorate between Washington and the Pacific nation.

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter received no response from Solomon Islands authorities when it requested permission to stop and refuel at the Pacific nation on Aug. 23, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby confirmed on Monday.

The U.S. official said it was a “routine” call and the vessel ended up diverting to Papua New Guinea instead.

The government was “disappointed in this decision,” but expected that future clearances would be provided to U.S. ships, Kirby added.

Relations between the Solomon Islands and the U.S. have deteriorated since the unexpected announcement in April that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had signed a security pact with the Chinese government. It was the first such agreement in the region and a major diplomatic win for Beijing.

The final wording of the pact has not been released. However, a draft version leaked in March would have allowed the Chinese military safe harbor for its warship just 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from the Australian coastline.

The U.S. and Australia have undertaken a major diplomatic outreach to Pacific island nations in recent months to try and counter Beijing’s influence, including a speech by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to the Pacific Islands Forum and multiple visits by Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

The Solomon Islands government has insisted it has no intention of allowing a Chinese military base in its territory.

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