Solomon Islands has suspended visits from all foreign navies, citing a need to review approval processes, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said yesterday, after a US Coast Guard ship was unable to refuel at its port.
The decision comes amid concerns over the Solomons’ growing ties with China in recent years, switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 2019 and signing a security pact with the Asian power in April.
Western governments are wary that the islands could provide China with a military foothold in a strategically important part of the world.
In a speech yesterday welcoming a US hospital ship to the capital, Honiara, Sogavare said he was reviewing the process for allowing foreign military vessels to dock in the country.
“We have requested our partners to give us time to review and put in place our new processes before sending further requests for military vessels to enter the country,” Sogavare said.
He also denied reports that a US coast guard ship and a British navy vessel were not allowed to dock in the country, saying delays in processing their approvals meant both were turned away.
The US embassy in Canberra confirmed in a statement that it had received formal notification of the suspension of naval visits.
“The United States received formal notification from the Government of Solomon Islands regarding a moratorium on all naval visits, pending updates in protocol procedures,” an embassy spokeswoman said in a statement.
“The United States is disappointed that the US Coast Guard ship was not able to make this planned stop in Honiara,” the statement said.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” it said.
Sogavare did not outline the suspension’s length, but promised a “smoother and timelier” approval process for naval visits following the review.
At the welcome ceremony for the US hospital ship Mercy he invited the vessel to return during the Pacific Games, due to be hosted in the country in December next year.
The US embassy said the Mercy — on a humanitarian mission to the country — had received clearance to dock before the moratorium was put in place.
Sogavare has deepened his South Pacific nation’s ties with China’s autocratic government and proposed changing the constitution to delay scheduled elections.
The four-time leader has twice been ousted by votes of no confidence, and faced street protests against his decision to switch diplomatic recognition.
After widespread rioting in Honiara demanding his ouster late last year, Sogavare signed a secretive security pact with Beijing that — according to a leaked draft — allows him to call in Chinese security forces to quell further unrest.
That has raised concerns in Canberra and Washington about the prospect of a Chinese military base being established or allowing China to develop dual-use facilities.
Sogavare has several times denied a foreign base would ever be built in his country.
Australia’s foreign affairs department has been contacted for comment.
Taiwanese businesspeople’s investments in China last year hit a record low of 11.4 percent of total foreign investment, the Mainland Affairs Council said yesterday. The number was a huge decline from 83.8 percent in 2010, mainly because Taiwanese businesspeople have been diversifying their investments globally over the past few years, with great success, the council said. From 1991 to last year, 45,523 Taiwanese investments in China totaling US$206.37 billion had been approved, accounting for 50.7 percent of overall foreign investment, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Investment Commission showed. The amount and proportion of Taiwanese investments in China has been declining, with
Taiwanese tourists on board a Kinmen cruise ship had a scare yesterday when it was intercepted by Chinese coast guards who forcefully boarded the vessel to inspect it. The Sunrise, a tourism ferry that operates between Kinmen and Xiamen, China, was sailing around the waters around the islets of Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽) — both of which are part of Kinmen County — yesterday afternoon when it encountered personnel from China’s Fujian Coast Guard Bureau. China Coast Guard personnel forced their way on board and conducted an inspection for about 30 minutes before leaving, local media cited the tourists as saying. The
SEEKING CALM: The US called for maintaining the ‘status quo,’ while the Ministry of National Defense said it would not bolster defenses in the area to avoid raising tensions Taiwanese should have greater faith in the government’s investigation into the capsizing of a Chinese vessel that resulted in the death of two Chinese fishers last week, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said yesterday, adding that Taiwan abides by the rule of law. On Wednesday last week, a Chinese speedboat was spotted trespassing in “prohibited” waters within 1.1 nautical miles (2km) of the east coast of Kinmen. It fled after refusing the coast guard’s request to board the vessel, setting off a chase that led to the boat capsizing, with two Chinese fishers dying. Two survivors were deported back to China
KINMEN: Coast guards on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should prohibit the entry of illegal vessels into ‘restricted’ waters to uphold maritime safety, Chen Chien-jen said Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) yesterday called for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to approach the security of Kinmen and Xiamen waters with rationality and equitability, following a boat chase that resulted in the death of two Chinese fishers last week. Chen was responding to media inquiries ahead of a legislative session amid rising cross-strait tensions following the capsizing of a Chinese speedboat off the east coast of Kinmen on Wednesday last week during a pursuit by the Taiwanese coast guard. The Ministry of National Defense established the boundaries of “prohibited” and “restricted” waters around Kinmen in 1992 to better protect