Solomon Islands warned decision to ban foreign naval visits could have ‘repercussions’

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Papua New Guinea’s foreign minister has warned Solomon Islands its decision to halt foreign naval visits could have “repercussions”.

Appearing on ABC Radio on Wednesday, Justin Tkatchenko said he did not know much about the decision, and it was Solomon Islands’ call to make.

But he said the Pacific nation’s government “needs to think about these decisions they’re making now, and think of the repercussions in the future”

Asked what these repercussions might be, Tkatchenko said: “I think… [if] you keep on pushing away a friendly ally, in times of need they might not be there for you,” he said.

“That’s why being friends to all and enemies to none, and working with everybody for the benefit of your people in your country is the right way forward.”

Defence Minister Richard Marles could not confirm whether Australian ships had also been barred.

Marles said he had seen the reports of the vessel ban.

“Ultimately those decisions are a matter for the Solomon Islands government,” Marles told ABC radio.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese plans to host his Solomons counterpart in the coming weeks as Australia seeks to firm up ties with the Pacific nation.
Australia is among other Western nations that have concerns over Solomon Islands growing ties with China, after

Tkatchenko’s comments come after Solomon Islands issued a moratorium on all nations requesting to send in naval ships while it works on new processes for military vessels entering port.

The announcement from Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare comes after it was revealed the U.S had been issued with a notice of the moratorium.

“On 29 August, the United States received formal notification from the government of Solomon Islands regarding a moratorium on all naval visits, pending updates in protocol procedures,” the U.S embassy in Canberra said in a statement.

“The United States is disappointed that the U.S Coast Guard ship was not able to make this planned stop.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Ahead of Sogavare’s “clarification”, news agency Reuters said a spokesman for Solomon Islands’ prime minister had earlier denied the reports of a moratorium.

It follows Honiara failing to respond to a request for a United States Coast Guard ship to dock and refuel on Friday.

The ship was diverted to Papua New Guinea.

There had been a delay in processing the ship’s approval and it had already left its waters when approval was communicated, Sogavare said.

The delay was primarily due to the appropriate information not being sent to his office on time, he said.

The prime minister has used the incident as justification for the moratorium.

“To this end we have 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,” Sogavare said, as he welcomed a U.S navy hospital ship in Honiara.

“Once the new mechanism is in place, we will inform you all. We anticipate the new process to be smoother and timelier.”

The U.S navy hospital ship Mercy docked in Honiara on Monday for a two-week mission.

“The U.S navy ship Mercy received diplomatic clearance prior to the moratorium being implemented. We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” the U.S embassy’s statement said.

The Solomons has been expanding 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 part of the world.

SOURCE: SBS/PACNEWS