As the Russian-Ukrainian war rages in Europe, another “war” is brewing in the Pacific, the Sino-American war of words to control the Solomon Islands.
According to a Reuters report, a delegation of senior US officials visiting the Solomon Islands over the weekend told Beijing that Washington would not allow a permanent Chinese military base on the island nation.
Why is Solomon Islands, a small island nation, suddenly another source of friction between China and the United States? Because it serves Beijing’s interests to control the entire Asia-Pacific region and keep America and its allies out of the South China Sea, which considers its sea.
“The Solomon Islands, a strategically located archipelago in the South Pacific, is currently being courted and visited by diplomats from Canberra and Washington, following news of a yet to be announced naval base deal with Beijing. “, said Juscelino Colares Schott-van den Eynden, professor. of law and professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University. “Such a deal would fit like a glove in the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to dominate the Indo-Pacific region and thwart AUKUS, the Australia-US-UK security pact designed to counter China’s expansionist plans there. It follows similar strategic agreements for bases or closer economic relations in key geographical locations, such as Djibouti (Horn of Africa and gateway to the Red Sea), and Nicaragua and El Salvador (near the Panama Canal).”
Last year, China and the Solomon Islands announced a security pact to ensure “peace and stability” in the region, followed by Beijing’s plans to establish a naval base on the Pacific island, which will place the warships much closer to the northeast coast of Australia.
“It could help its navy to make up for its carrier deficit and even gain an advantage over AUKUS by expanding its forward land positions,” says Professor Colares. “It should be remembered that Guadalcanal is one of the islands of the archipelago that American forces had to control to make the final advance towards Japan during World War II. If the Chinese emerged victorious from this courtship, they would would have one more land base to add to the artificial islands they have built, far to the north in the South China Sea, in violation of its neighbors’ sovereignty and international law. A few more steps and its navy would spread its forces and potentially control important sea lanes from the South China Sea to the Indo-Pacific region. This prospect would give the Biden administration and its AUKUS partners a greater sense of urgency.” Thus, the recent US warning to Beijing to stay away from the Solomon Islands.
Meanwhile, Beijing has accused Washington of “dragging the South Pacific into the geopolitical game”.
“Washington’s current interests in the South Pacific region are heavily military-focused,” said a Globaltimes editorial last week. “The US military plans to expand military bases in the region, and even deploy intermediate-range missiles in countries like Palau. This undoubtedly draws the South Pacific region into the geopolitical game of great powers, threatening regional security and peace.”
Apparently, Beijing considers itself a great power. But the editorial did not explain who threatens the security and peace of the South Pacific, for good reason. The threat to peace and stability is not America and its allies, but China’s ambitions to control the vast region.
“Projection, or the practice of telling adversaries about one’s own intentions and plans for stratagems, is a well-known tactic of Cold War Russian diplomacy and Chinese diplomacy today,” adds Professor Colares. “Replace Moscow’s claims of ‘imperialism’ against the United States (as it has co-opted elites and intellectuals from Central/Eastern European countries, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East and brought them into its sphere of control) by Beijing’s claims that the United States simply wants to “use [the Solomon Islands] like a pawn”, and you can see through the Chinese smokescreen.”
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