According to the White House, Solomon Island representatives at the meeting “indicated that the agreement had solely domestic implications”.
However, noting that this was “a critical juncture” for the region, the US will expedite the opening of an embassy in the Solomon Islands and also launch a high-level strategic dialogue with the Solomon Islands through the White House and the Department of State.
“Its purpose will be to enhance communication, address mutual concerns, and drive practical progress” the White House said. “In particular, both sides agreed to discuss in greater detail security issues of mutual concern, economic and social development, public health, and finance and debt.”
The US delegation also included Deputy Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command Lieutenant General Stephen Sklenka and USAID Acting Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia Craig Hart.
The visit to the Solomon Islands was the final leg of a broader trip across the Pacific, which included stops in Hawaii, where the delegation met with senior officials from Australia, Japan, and New Zealand; as well as Fiji, where they met with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
The US has had concerns about China’s rise in the region for months: in January this year, for instance, Campbell told a panel that the South Pacific was the place where he most expected to see some kind of “strategic surprise” whether it be in the form of a base or a security agreement.
But the trip comes amid some concerns in Washington that the US has been distracted on other global challenges – namely Putin’s war on Ukraine – that it has outsourced regional policy in the Pacific to Australia.
However, Australia’s approach has also come under fire for being too slow, despite knowing for months that a threat was imminent.
The failure to act fast enough now puts national and regional security at the heart of the Australia’s federal election campaign, with Labor leader Anthony Albanese describing it “one of the greatest policy failures that we’ve seen from this government”.
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