Solomon Islands to ban navy vessels from ports until new process is in place

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly remotely via pre-recorded video in New York, U.S., September 25, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Pool

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SYDNEY, Aug 30 (Reuters) – The Solomon Islands has suspended the entry of foreign navy vessels into its waters pending the adoption of a new port visit approval process, the office said on Tuesday. of the Prime Minister, in order to better control his exclusive economy. areas.

The suspension of entry follows incidents last week when a US Coast Guard ship, the Oliver Henry, and a Royal Navy ship, the HMS Spey, were unable to make port calls. because the government did not respond to requests for supplies and supplies.

“We have asked our partners to give us time to review and put in place our new processes, before sending new requests for military vessels to enter the country,” Prime Minister Manesseh Sogavare said in a statement. communicated.

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“These will apply universally to all visiting warships,” he said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Sogavare added that he wanted to build national capacity to monitor the exclusive economic zones of the Pacific island nation.

The Solomon Islands has had “unfortunate experiences of foreign warships entering the country’s waters during the year without diplomatic clearance being granted,” the statement said, without naming the countries.

The suspension of warship visits will be lifted when a new process is in place.

In a speech Tuesday afternoon to welcome the U.S. hospital ship Mercy, Sogavare said the delay on the Oliver Henry was because information was not sent to his office in time.

He also confirmed the delays in approving the entry of the British Navy ship Spey, which canceled its scheduled port call.

APPROVAL PROCEDURES

Earlier, the US Embassy in the Australian capital said the Solomon Islands had notified it of a moratorium on navy vessels entering its ports.

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

The Mercy had arrived before the moratorium, the embassy said, adding that it was monitoring the situation.

The Solomon Islands has had strained relations with the United States and its allies since signing a security pact with China this year. Read more

Beijing and Honiara said there would be no Chinese military base, although a leaked draft referred to Chinese navy ships resupplying in the strategically located archipelago.

The Oliver Henry and HMS Spey were patrolling for illegal fishing in the South Pacific for a regional fisheries agency as they sought entry to refuel in Honiara, the capital of the Solomons. Read more

The United States announced in July its intention to crack down on illegal fishing in the Pacific, as part of increased U.S. engagement in the region to counter China’s growing influence. Read more

On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said it was unfortunate that “we have seen the Chinese trying to intimidate and coerce Indo-Pacific nations into doing their offer and to serve what they believe to be their selfish national security interests”. , rather than the broader interests of a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

An Australian defense spokesman said diplomatic clearances for visiting foreign ships were the responsibility of the Solomon Islands government.

“Australia continues to work with the Solomon Islands to meet its security priorities and the region’s collective maritime security objectives,” the spokesperson said.

A Royal Navy spokesman said he “looked forward to visiting the Solomon Islands at a later date”.

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Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney and Michael Martina in Washington; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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