The contentious pact, signed last week, would allow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—with the consent of the Solomon Islands—to dispatch police, troops, weapons, and even naval ships to “protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands,” based on leaked pages from the document.
If implemented to its full extent, the framework agreement will give China the ability to extend its reach beyond the South China Sea and into the South Pacific region, and sever shipping lanes and air links connecting the United States with allies Australia and New Zealand, according to James Fannell, a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The Solomon Islands occupies a strategic position in the Pacific and is less than 1,200 miles from Australia.
Both China and the Solomon Islands have denied that the island would permit Beijing to station its military forces there as a result of the pact. But, in Fanell’s view, the deal would allow the Chinese military to make stop-offs in the Solomons if needed to refuel and refit, which he described as “the beginnings of a kind of a base.”
“It puts a foothold for the first time that the People’s Republic of China will now have the ability to fully operate military vessels and warships from inside the South China Sea,” Fannell recently told Epoch TV’s “China Insider” program, referring to the official name of the regime.
Given the island’s strategic location in the South Pacific, any Chinese presence on the Solomons would benefit Beijing in a Taiwan invasion scenario by impeding the ability of the United States and allies to respond in the region, Fannell said. The Chinese regime views self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory, to be taken by force if necessary.
“If China was able to establish a string of bases … as an iron bar going across the South Pacific, it essentially would break off Australia, New Zealand, from America, it would break off Australia, from Japan,” he said.
In such a scenario, the regime would eventually be able to break up the United States’ network of partners in the Indo-Pacific, namely Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, and expand its own influence there, according to Fannell.
Years of Neglect
Western countries, including the United States and Britain, have deep historical ties with island nations in the South Pacific, Fannell said. During World War II, thousands of American, British, and Australian soldiers gave their lives in the struggle to liberate the islands from Japanese occupation.
Yet over the past decade or so, Western powers have neglected the region, leaving the people there in destitute conditions without providing necessary support, he said. This has paved the way for the Chinese regime to fill the void and offer assistance.
“They have a lot of natural resources, but they don’t have a lot of infrastructure and development that allows them to benefit from their own resources. And so they actually need some help. And China has come in and provided assurances,” Fannell said.
However, in his view, the people of the Solomon Islands, who are mostly Christian, are not supportive of communist China.
“They just want to have freedom, they want to have the ownership of their land, they want to have respect and rule of law. They don’t want to be influenced by a communist nation like the Chinese Communist Party,” Fannell said.
Last year, the country was rocked by riots that stemmed from peaceful protests sparked in part by the government’s growing ties with Beijing.
Thus, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Taiwan, and Japan should work together to offer these island nations development projects that allow these countries to be in control of their own destinies, according to Flannel.
He believed that Solomon Islanders would be amenable to offers from like-minded countries, as opposed to the Chinese Communist Party.
Flannel emphasized that Washington and its allies should act fast, otherwise, “China may expel the United States and its influence from the South Pacific in 15 years.”
“Every day that we delay is another day that the Chinese Communist Party is infiltrating and digging their claws in deeper,” he said.