Summary of senior management’s travel to Hawaii, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands

On April 22, a high-level U.S. delegation—led by Indo-Pacific National Security Council Coordinator Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Krettenbrink, Indopacom’s Deputy Commandant Lt. Gen. Stephen Sklinka and Acting Senior Deputy Assistant USAID Administrator Asia Craig Hart – visited Honiara, Solomon Islands. For ninety minutes, the delegation met with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavari, along with twenty members of his government and senior staff. While there, the delegation also met with prominent religious leaders on the island and prominent members of the political opposition.

This visit to the Solomon Islands was the last leg of the delegation’s voyage across the Pacific. This came after a layover in Hawaii, where the delegation met with senior officials from Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Fiji, where they met Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, as well as the leadership of the Pacific Islands Forum, and convened the US-Fiji Strategic Dialogue; and Papua New Guinea, where they met Prime Minister James Marab and senior defense officials to discuss ways to strengthen security relations. Through these engagements, the United States has reiterated that it will seek to further deepen our enduring relationship with the Pacific islands and take concrete steps to advance the freedom, openness, and resilience of the Indo-Pacific region. The United States will do so by fulfilling and strengthening its commitments in the region, working to strengthen regional unity, coordinating with allies and partners to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, and protecting the sovereignty of Pacific Island nations.

In the meeting with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sugavari, the delegation reiterated the key priorities motivating the trip and also outlined specific steps the United States would take to advance the well-being of the people of Solomon Islands. The United States will expedite the opening of an embassy in the Solomon Islands. strengthening cooperation on unexploded ordnance; Launching a maritime awareness program; dispatch of a mercy hospital ship to treat public health; advancing the dialogue about the return of the Peace Corps; provide additional vaccinations; and promoting initiatives on climate, health and people-to-people relationships.

The United States respects the right of nations to make sovereign decisions that are in the best interests of their people. The two sides engaged in substantive discussion over the recently signed security agreement between the Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China. Solomon Islands representatives noted that the agreement has only domestic applications, but the US delegation noted that there are potential regional security ramifications for the agreement, including for the United States and its allies and partners. The US delegation identified clear areas of concern regarding the purpose, scope and transparency of the agreement.

If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power projection capabilities, or military facility, the delegation indicated that the United States would have significant concerns and would respond accordingly. In response to these enumerated concerns, Prime Minister Sogavari reiterated his specific assurances that there would be no military base, no long-term presence, and no ability to project power, he said publicly. The United States confirmed that it will follow developments closely in consultation with regional partners.

At this critical juncture, the United States and Solomon Islands agreed to launch a high-level strategic dialogue, co-chaired by the White House and the State Department. Its purpose is to enhance communication, address common interests, and advance practical progress. In particular, the two sides agreed to discuss in more detail security issues of mutual interest, economic and social development, public health, finance and debt. Each side committed to taking the necessary steps in the intervening period to prepare for a successful engagement.

###

Leave a Comment