U.S., Japan, Australia show concern over China-Solomons security pact

Apr 20 , 2022. 3 hours ago – 10:38 KYODO NEWS

U.S. White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell. (Kyodo)

WASHINGTON – The United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are concerned over a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, the White House said Tuesday, citing “serious risks” the move could pose to the region.

The statement was issued after China said the same day it has signed the deal, which has fanned fears among the United States and its ally Australia that Beijing’s military influence may grow in the region.

According to the White House, officials of the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand met on Monday in Honolulu and reaffirmed the four countries’ “enduring and shared commitment to the Pacific Islands.”

“They also shared concerns about a proposed security framework between the Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China and its serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

The meeting was joined by White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell and Daniel Kritenbrink, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, who are traveling this week to Hawaii, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.

The U.S. government has criticized the China-Solomon Islands security partnership, saying it will leave the door open for the deployment of Chinese forces to the Pacific island nation. The Solomon Islands has denied that the agreement invites China to establish a military base there.

The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019.

The United States and its allies are stepping up efforts to push back against Beijing’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

China has militarized outposts in disputed areas of the South China Sea — parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam — and has carried out repeated incursions into waters around the Senkaku Islands, a group of East China Sea islets controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.