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Amid growing China ties, Solomon Islands suspends all naval visits

HONIARA: Solomon Islands has suspended visits from all foreign navies, citing a need to review approval processes, the country’s leader said on Tuesday, after a US coast guard was unable to refuel at its port. The decision comes amid concerns over the Solomons’ growing ties with China in recent years, switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 2019 and signing a security pact with the Asian power in April.
Western governments are wary that the islands could provide China with a military foothold in a strategically important region.
In a speech on Tuesday welcoming a US hospital ship to the capital Honiara, PM Manasseh Sogavare said he was reviewing the process for allowing foreign military vessels to dock in the country.
“We’ve requested our partners to give us time to review and put in place our new processes before sending further requests for military vessels to enter the country,” he said.
He also denied reports that a US coast guard ship and a British navy vessel were not allowed to dock in the country, saying delays in processing their approvals meant both were turned away.
The US embassy in Canberra confirmed it had received formal notification of the suspension of naval visits. “The US is disappointed that the US Coast Guard ship was not able to make this planned stop in Honiara,” the embassy said. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation.” Sogavare did not outline the suspension’s length but promised a “smoother and timelier” approval process for naval visits following the review.

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