US to ‘respond’ if China puts military base on Solomon Islands: White House

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The United States warned Friday it would “respond accordingly” if China installs a military base on the strategic Solomon Islands after the tiny Pacific state signed a security pact with Beijing.

The White House said a high-level US delegation had told the leadership of the Solomon Islands that the recently signed pact has “potential regional security implications” for Washington and its allies.

“If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the United States would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly,” the White House said.

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National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink led the delegation, also including Pentagon officials, to the US state of Hawaii, then Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands this week.

The Solomons stop came right after China confirmed sealing a wide-ranging security pact seen in Washington as part of a battle for diplomatic influence and strategic positioning across the Pacific and its trade routes.

Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has sought to reassure Washington and close ally Australia that the China deal does not include establishing any military base.

According to the White House statement, “Sogavare reiterated his specific assurances that there would be no military base, no long-term presence, and no power projection capability, as he has said publicly.”

“The United States emphasized that it will follow developments closely in consultation with regional partners,” the statement said.

During a 90-minute meeting with Sogavare and two dozen members of his cabinet and senior staff, the US officials discussed expedited opening of a US embassy, healthcare assistance, vaccine deliveries and increased “people-to-people ties,” the White House said.

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