Solomon Islands Denies Entry of U.S. Vessel

Despite reassurances from China that the nation doesn't intend to expand its military's reach, concerns were still raised by nations in the Asia/Pacific region.

China Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, and Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, posing in front of the two nations' flags.

Denial of U.S. vessel raises concerns of Chinese influence in Pacific.

A U.S. Coast Guard ship sent from Guam was denied entry into the Solomon Islands, raising concerns of China tightening its grip on the Pacific region.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Oliver Henry was denied a port call by the Solomon Islands last Saturday – a gesture that raises concerns about China’s foothold in the region.

Photo of the vessel that was denied entry by Solomon Islands
USCGC Oliver Henry, the vessel that was denied port call by the Solomon Islands.

As the cutter wrapped up its part of the mission to prevent illegal fishing in the region, the vessel was scheduled to stop at the Solomon Islands to refuel.

However, the Solomon Islands turned away the vessel. As a result, it had to reroute to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea for refueling.

China in the Pacific

The denial of Oliver Henry is due in part to the security pact the Solomon Islands recently made with China.

The security agreement suggests that the Solomon Islands would permit Chinese ships to stop in the islands.

The pact also teased the possibility of deploying Chinese police to the Solomons to keep “social order.”

However, China and the Solomon Islands denied that their security agreement will lead to military expansion in the region.

China State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media:

“The bilateral security framework between China and the Solomon Islands is conducted in light of the request and need of the Solomon Islands and through consultations on equal footing.”

Wang Yi, China State Councilor and Foreign Minister
Wang Yi, China State Councilor and Foreign Minister

“China doesn’t impose anything on anyone. That is not how we Chinese conduct ourselves. Anytime our friends and partners need support, China is always ready to extend a helping hand.”

Last Wednesday, the Solomon Islands asked other countries to stop sending naval vessels until approval processes are reexamined and improved.

The U.S. Navy Hospital ship USNS Mercy – which PNC was able to tour this past May when it docked on Guam – still sits at bay in the Solomon Islands for the ship’s humanitarian aid mission.

President Joe Biden looks forward to hosting Pacific Island leaders at the White House later this month to address the growing concerns about China’s influence in the region.

Reach reporter Devin Eligio: