The Breathtaking Hypocrisy of the U.S. Government Regarding China’s “Security Cooperation Agreement” With the Solomon Islands
How many times have you heard it, when discussing the war in Ukraine with friends, family or on social media? How many times have you heard a U.S. government official or talking head on CNN, Fox or MSNBC say it: “Ukraine is a sovereign nation!” And, of course, they are all correct. But how does the United States and its ally Australia respond when another nation exercises its own sovereignty and concludes a “security agreement” with a country they see as an adversary? The answer is they issue a not so veiled threat to attack that country if it allows the other party to the agreement to establish a “permanent military presence” on its territory because the U.S. and Aussies feel it threatens their security.
Here’s what Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who was part of a hastily assembled delegation sent to the Solomon’s after the April 19 announcement of the agreement with China, had to say to members of the media about the situation on April 26th:
We’ve outlined the specific concerns that we have regarding the potential for a permanent military presence or power-projection capabilities or a military installation, and we’ve indicated that should those events come to pass, that the United States would respond accordingly. And I think it’s best if I leave it at that and not speculate on what that may or may not mean.
Kritenbrink added that the agreement had implications for the “security interests of the United States and our partners,” and that in the meeting with Solomon’s Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, “we wanted to be crystal-clear about what that may mean.”
An unverified “draft” of the agreement has been posted on Twitter by Dr. Anna Powles, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Defense and Security Studies at New Zealand’s Massey University. How she came about it is not explained and, therefore, its authenticity is suspect but nevertheless it says the following:
Solomon Island may, according to its own needs, request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces to Solomon Islands to assist in maintaining social order, protecting people’s lives and property, providing humanitarian assistance, carrying out disaster response or providing assistance on other tasks agreed upon by the Parties.
This certainly begs the question of why the Solomon’s, a tiny island nation of about 700,000, would need to sign an agreement with a foreign power to provide police and military assistance to “maintain social order,” among other things. Part of the answer is that the Solomon’s have no military of their own and a relatively small police force. There have also been significant periods of social unrest and outright civil war since the islands became independent from Britain in 1978. And there is also a precedent for calling on foreign police and military assistance to aid in dealing with these problems, although that was previously provided by Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific island nations. But significantly, the text of the agreement posted by Powles says nothing about the Chinese establishing bases or any kind of permanent military presence in the Solomon’s.
In addition, the government of the Solomon’s has been highly unstable with no less than six short-lived prime minsters over the past 15 and a half years or so. The current prime minister, the aforementioned Manasseh Sogavare, has himself been in and out of office three times before his most recent reelection in 2019. According to an April 2019 Radio New Zealand article The election was not without controversy as a court injunction was delivered to Parliament just before it began, calling for the process to be postponed.
Apparently, no reason was given for the injunction but it is believed to have been applied for by the rival candidate Matthew Wale and his coalition, who in the lead up to the vote raised questions about the eligibility of Sogavare to contest for the top job once again. However, Governor-General Sir Frank Kabui chose to go ahead with the election despite the court order, as was his right under the Solomon’s constitution. Perhaps the most significant action of the new Sogavare regime was to switch official recognition from Taiwan to China. That shouldn’t be all that controversial since several other Pacific island nations have already recognized China for years, as well both the U.S. and Australia. However, the move did provoke resistance in Malaita, one of the Solomon’s provinces. Just then, the U.S. pledged to send $25 million to Malaita, which was demanding an independence referendum over the Sogavare government’s decision to recognize China. Said Dr. Terence Wood, a researcher with Australia National University’s Development Policy Centre at the time:
It’s either a remarkable coincidence for some reason, someone in the US State Department has suddenly found Malaita on the map, or much more likely, it’s got a lot to do with geopolitics.
In fact, the ever farsighted U.S. government closed its embassy in the Solomon’s capital Honiara 29 years ago, but in February of this year pledged to reopen it. That same month, Antony Blinken became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Fiji in almost 40 years. The Solomon’s security agreement with China has also led to what a World Socialist Website article refers to as a “Militarist frenzy” in Australia, with both the Liberal-National Coalition government and Labor opposition jockeying to see who can be more bellicose viz. China.
As if the world needed more militarist frenzy right now!