Solomon Islands Denies Clearance for Port Call to Guam-based US Coast Guard Cutter

An incident that occurred recently amid growing worries about Chinese influence on the Pacific country involved a U.S. coast guard cutter patrolling as part of an international mission to stop illegal fishing; the cutter was unable to obtain clearance for a scheduled port call in the Solomon Islands.

The cutter Oliver Henry attempted to make a scheduled stop in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, to refuel and restock while it was participating in Operation Island Chief, which monitored fishing activity in the Pacific and ended on Friday. The Oliver Henry made a detour to Papua New Guinea, according to the Coast Guard, after the government of the Solomon Islands failed to respond to requests for diplomatic authorization for the ship to stay there.

According to the Coast Guard, on Tuesday, Henry arrived in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, “after a patrol in areas of the Coral Sea and the Solomon Islands,” though the exact timing of the stop in the Solomon Islands was not made clear.

The HMS Spey, which is also taking part in Operation Island Chief, was reportedly denied a port visit in the Solomon Islands. This information was not immediately addressed by the Royal Navy of Great Britain. The Royal Navy anticipates travelling to the Solomon Islands in the future. The United States, Australia, Britain, and New Zealand supported the Pacific island countries taking part in Operation Island Chief by providing aircraft and surface surveillance, including Solomon Islands.

China has been adamantly seeking to increase its presence and influence in the Pacific, and after signing a new security agreement with China, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare concerned certain neighbors, the United States, and others. The agreement has sparked worries that China will build a naval base within 1,200 miles of Australia’s northeast coast.

A Chinese military presence in the Solomon Islands would put it near to Guam, the U.S. territory that houses significant military installations, as well as New Zealand, Australia, and the Solomon Islands. Both China and the Solomon Islands have denied that their agreement will provide the latter a military footing in the South Pacific.

The Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea visits by the Tennessee Republican, according to a statement on her website, “were a critical step in highlighting America’s commitment to the area and expanding our strategic ties.”

In a statement released from Honolulu, the Coast Guard stated that it respects the sovereignty of its international allies and looks forward to working with the Solomon Islands in the future. After the Solomon Islands administration declined the port call, Coast Guard Lt. Kristin Kam told the Stars and Stripes newspaper that the United States State Department had gotten in touch with them and that they “anticipate all future clearances would be issued to U.S. ships.”

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