How a tiny Pacific nation asserts its place between China and the US — Analysis

The Solomon Islands has barred foreign navies from docking at its shores, showing it’s not willing to be anyone’s ‘backyard’

By Timur FomenkoA political analyst 

The United States can’t take a hint when it comes to the Solomon Islands, which is asserting itself and its interests despite an aggressive American diplomatic offensive, conjured purely on the intent of opposing China.

Tuesday saw the islands announce that they were temporarily banning foreign navies and ships from their ports. While this applies to all, the majority of media outlets reported that it was specifically targeting the US.

That’s because the US has long flaunted a strategy of global maritime hegemony by saying it can essentially dock where it likes.

In reporting that, it is no surprise that Beijing was immediately deemed as the one to blame, as part of an ongoing drama across the past year which accuses China of ‘gaining influence’ in the island country.

China, Australia, and the US both loathed, signed the Solomon Islands security agreement at the beginning of 2015. This deal was made despite implicit threats from each country and exhortation.

The US has upped the diplomatic ante since then, announcing that its embassy in the country will be reopened, creating a group called ‘the Partners in the Blue Pacific’, and has tried to charm the islands by presenting China as a threat, again and again.

Pacific nation bars US warships

However, the Solomons have no problem with it. They are simply snubbing the US’ overtures repeatedly. It was the first step in a security deal.

The two have now taken out a loan from Huawei to construct telecommunications infrastructure. Last week, the US Coast Guard vessel was told where they should go. Manasseh, their prime minister skipped an event to commemorate an important US World War II victory.

But the US and its ally Australia pretend not to get the point – they believe that the Solomon Islands is their own rightful ‘backyard’ and maintain its recent moves are merely a product of ‘malign’ influence exerted by China. They frame themselves as the benevolent overseers of the islands’ ‘true interests’ who do so purely out of good will.

However, the Solomons are not of that opinion. The Solomons themselves disagree. They feel they’ve been under centuries of Anglosphere dominance, exploitation, and neglect. This first saw them fall under the British crown, then the Washington and Canberra overlordship, which expect obedience but give nothing back.

The Solomon Islands of course does not vent hatred towards these countries, with Sogavare expressing in a visit with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that “we are all family.” However, it does want to be a strategically independent and autonomous nation that is dominated by nobody. It doesn’t want to be a ‘backyard’ any longer.

China is a great opportunity because of this. Whilst the US and its allies have refused to invest in the development of the Solomon Islands, the access to China’s markets and investment are a game-changer in real terms for the country with a population of just 686,878 people.

Islands near Australia could be sold to China

By doing this, Solomon Islands does not tend to a pro China alliance (which would be unwise considering its circumstances), but instead tilts towards non alignment. It procures benefits from all parties while also making it clear that it’s not just a steppingstone for regional military hegemony.

Australia and the US have repeatedly demanded that the Solomon Islands not accept a Chinese military station as part of the security accord. But they could have predicted that this would be the case in both directions. China shouldn’t be allowed to maintain a military presence. Why would others want one?

It is how a small group of islands in the Pacific Ocean marks their own position and navigates US-China conflict. However, it doesn’t become a mere pawn. With China’s backing, America and Australia can no longer take the Solomons for granted or simply walk all over them.

This elevates the status, power, and importance of this country – whereas if China were never on the scene, we would never so much as hear of the country.

Statements, opinions and views expressed in this column do not reflect those of RT.



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