Where are the Solomon Islands and why are they important to the United States?


The Solomon Islands are in the southern hemisphere, east of Papua New Guinea and east northeast of Australia. The Solomon Islands is a former English colony that became politically independent about 45 years ago.  

While the Solomon Islands are politically independent, this country doesn’t have the power or influence to permanently shape the broader Oceania area and region because it is a small island nation eclipsed by the power and relative might of Australia and the United States. 

The Solomon Islands are crucial to the United States and Australia because they are located south of Micronesia, and close to Australia, a key American ally. 

What Solomon Islands leaders did to garner attention
It was recently announced that the Solomon Islands has partnered with China for the purpose of giving China military access to port facilities. The Solomon Islands government was previously aligned with Taiwan. This current security deal between the Solomon Islands and China does not talk about giving China the option to construct a permanent military base.  

Australia is furious with this development because it doesn’t want the Chinese military to have long-term land-based military access close by. Australia’s opposition to this move by the Solomon Islands comes at a time when Australia sells iron ore, seafood, coal, and other materials to China. As most of us are aware, the U.S. has sound military relationships with Australia and New Zealand, which are located to the south of the Solomon Islands.  

The Chinese have taken a deep interest in the domestic affairs of the Solomon Islands government for a variety of reasons. The Solomon Islands government can now receive Chinese-sponsored homeland security support services should the need arise to quell domestic political pressures resulting from Solomon Islands ending its relations with Taiwan and partnering with China. It should be noted that the Solomon Islands is also preparing for a major political election in 2023. 

What is all the fuss about? It is about Pacific Island power grabs in a key strategic area of the world
The Chinese, unlike the United States, have few military bases overseas. The Chinese have a military installation in Djibouti in Africa. China continues to fortify and build out its military suite of capabilities and bases throughout its near-seas region in the South China Sea. 

By contrast, the United States has approximately 800 military bases and installations of some sort or another located across the globe. 

What the United States is worried about is that China will eventually seek to build a permanent military base on the Solomon Islands, which will create new kinds of challenges to American national security interests in the region. 

Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are within 2,000 miles from the Solomon Islands. Should China get unfettered access to Solomon Island port facilities, and should China eventually have a permanent basing arrangement with the Solomon Islands government, the Chinese military would then be able to further penetrate and observe at much closer distances major American commercial and military resource flows of sea-based traffic and routing.  

Let us remember some important facts
Let’s remember that the U.S. currently has about 300 submarines and ships. China has about 350 submarines and ships plus a huge ship count of coast guard and auxiliary vessels that are operational. 

China is poised to break the 400-military ship count mark within the next eight years because it has the national resource base to construct and deliver military vessels at a clip far surpassing the American industrial base capacity to construct and deliver submarines and surface vessels.

The United States and Australia worry about Chinese strategic intentions in Micronesia because our region islands currently have ties and relationships with Taiwan. China has the time, money and national Maritime Belt and Road Initiative policy to play the long game and while pledging to improve the overall quality of life for Solomon Islands citizens. 

 What our Chamorro Pacific Islander civilization should be thinking about
Because Guam and the NMI are American affiliated and aligned islands that host massive concentrations of U.S. military related resources, the establishment of a Chinese military presence and the possibility of seeing China constructing a military base in the region in the future will continue to be worrisome for American and Australian officials. 

Our region is directly north of the Solomon Islands and if China was able to permanently penetrate the immediate vicinity of our Deep Blue Pacific Ocean continent, the likelihood that an accident or miscalculation will take place increases. 

China is incredibly strategic about its behavior in our region. China’s behavior challenges the American-led status quo that has been in place over the last seven decades. Our entire Micronesian region continues to be further militarized by the United States, providing regional cooperation armed forces training events. 

As the arms race and bilateral competition between the United States and China continues in the western and southern Pacific, what we are witnessing is the establishment of additional military-related concentric circles of superpower interest, which may create greater instability in our collective Deep Blue Pacific Ocean continent backyard.  

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For more information, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.

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