The United States has warned a proposed security pact between Solomon Islands and China may destabilise the Pacific Island nation and set a “concerning precedent” for the region.
State Department spokesman Ned Price made the comment as the White House confirmed reports that top U.S official Kurt Campbell would visit Solomon Islands later this week.
Campbell, the Indo-Pacific coordinator of the National Security Council, will lead a delegation along with senior State Department official Daniel Kritenbrink.
The Financial Times revealed the planned trip earlier this month. However, the details have only just been released publicly.
Price said the purpose of the visit was partly “to share perspectives, to share interests, to share concerns”.
“Despite the Solomon Islands government’s comments, the broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of PRC (Peoples Republic of China) military forces to the Solomon Islands,” he said.
“We believe that signing such an agreement could increase destabilisation within the Solomon Islands and will set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific island region.”
The U.S revealed earlier this year that it would re-establish its embassy in Honiara in an effort to counter China’s influence in the region.
American officials visiting Solomon Islands this week will also visit Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
“Part of our engagement, including in this upcoming context, is to ensure that our partners in the Indo-Pacific and around the world understand what the United States brings to the table, understands what partnership can bring,” Price said.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare insists he has no plans to allow China to build a military base in the country, less than 2,000 kilometres from the Queensland coast.
However, a leaked draft of the document shows Beijing could be allowed to station navy ships and defence personnel there to protect billions of dollars in Chinese infrastructure investment.
Australia has “respectfully” urged Sogavare against proceeding with the pact, arguing it could support the security needs of Solomon Islands “with full respect for its sovereignty”.
The commander of the U.S Pacific Fleet, Admiral Samuel Paparo, has also previously criticised what he has described as a “secret” arrangement.