The battlefields of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, draw visitors from the US and its war allies, as well as those from Japan, decades after the bloody campaign in the South Pacific ended.
However, in recent weeks, some visitors say they have been prevented from accessing one of Guadalcanal’s most significant World War II sites, which includes a Japanese war monument, after a deal handed control of the land to a company controlled by a Chinese businessman.
Tour operators and the Japanese ambassador to the Solomons say it appears to be a case of a lack of understanding of the significance of the Alligator Creek site by the new owner.
The issue has stirred up debate in the Solomons concerning its new relationship with China, which was formalized in September following the nation’s decision to sever its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
That decision has frustrated the US and Japan, with US officials expressing concern about China’s “use of economic and military levers” to increase its influence in the South Pacific.
“I would like the problem settled in a peaceful way,” Japanese Ambassador to the Solomons Shigeru Toyama said by telephone from the capital, Honiara.
Toyama said he hoped to meet with the new owners, JQY Ltd, in the coming days.
“I hope they will pay much attention to the monument and will reconcile how to preserve it,” Toyama said.
The new owner has built a fence around part of the Alligator Creek site that takes in the Japanese monument, tour operator Francis Deve said, and access is dependent on whether security guards at the locked gate were present to take visitors in.
“There used to be local people sitting next to the site who put flowers around the monument; they were chased out and they put up a fence,” Deve said by phone from Guadalcanal.
A JQY representative in Honiara did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Solomon Islands Ministry of Culture and Tourism was liaising with the owner to discuss potential heritage plans for the area around the monument, the government said in a statement.
Tourism is an important income-earner for the Solomons, with most visitors drawn by the country’s diving spots and war relics, which are generally accessible to the public, tour operators said.
The archipelago is also heavily reliant on logging and fisheries.
JQY is registered to Yang Jiangqing, who was part of a delegation that accompanied Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to Beijing last month where the two countries signed several commercial agreements.
Yang did not respond to interview requests.
The bloody battles that occurred near Alligator Creek — sometimes referred to as the Battle of the Tenaru or Battle for Hell’s Point — were part of a major US-led offensive in 1942 to take control of the island and its strategic airfield.
A counter-offensive proved disastrous for Japanese forces, and generations of relatives of the hundreds of fallen soldiers now regularly visit the battleground to pay their respects.
Solomons Acting Commissioner of Lands Alan McNeil said the department had consented to the transfer of the land to JQY in January from Levers Solomon, a local company historically involved in the timber industry.
“These land transfers are lawful and an everyday occurrence,” McNeil said in a statement. “Neither the national government nor the Guadalcanal provincial government sold this land — rather, it has been in private hands for many decades.”
Levers did not respond to requests for comment.
The government has since said a deal signed by one of its provinces to lease the entire island of Tulagi to a Chinese company was unlawful and should be terminated, however details of a contract awarded to state-owned China State Railway Group to develop a gold project on Guadalcanal have not been released.
Deve said negotiations with the new owners to freely access the site were advancing slowly.
“We must protect and preserve it,” Deve said. “It should be a heritage site.”
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of