New US Embassy in the Solomons

New US Embassy in the Solomons
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman posing for pictures with the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare after a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal at Skyline Ridge in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Aug. 7, 2022. (Mavis Podokolo/AFP via Getty Images)
Anders Corr


The United States has a new embassy in the Solomon Islands. The Solomons are a group of 992 islands in the Pacific, approximately one-third of which are populated. It’s a juicy target for China, which seeks to project its navy toward Australia and New Zealand—both are close U.S. allies.

The United States hasn’t had an embassy in the Solomons since 1993. Our sudden change of heart is due to mounting rivalry with China, specifically, Beijing’s defense pact with the archipelagic country.

The Sino-Solomon agreement, signed and leaked in draft form in 2022, appears to allow for unprecedented intervention by the People’s Armed Police in the case of local unrest. It also includes port services for China’s ships, which would include the People’s Liberation Army Navy. This gives Beijing a strategic foothold just a thousand miles off Australia’s northeast coast.

The Solomons were once solidly within the United States’ and Australia’s sphere of influence, given our and Australia’s close relations and shared history fighting Imperial Japan during World War II.

The Japanese invaded the Solomons in 1942. U.S. and allied efforts to liberate the island included the Battle of Guadalcanal, which cost more than 7,000 American lives and 8,000 wounded. More than 40 U.S. ships and 800 aircraft were destroyed in the Solomon Islands Campaign.

So it’s particularly painful that the current leader of the Solomons, under allegations of corruption and a de facto coup, is turning toward Beijing.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (R) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang inspect honor guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 9, 2019. (Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images)
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (R) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang inspect honor guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 9, 2019. (Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images)

In 1978, the Solomons chose to become independent of Britain, which must have cheered the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Following in the footsteps of its Marxist-Leninist forebears, the CCP has consistently targeted British and American “imperialism” as a stumbling block to Beijing’s own brand of the same.

After the islands’ independence from Britain, the United States established its first Solomon Islands embassy but reduced costs by co-locating it with the embassy to the nearby nation of Papua New Guinea.

At the tail end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union in 1988, the United States established its first embassy physically located in the Solomon Islands, in the capital city of Honiara. Five years later, in the context of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it closed. The money saved by U.S. taxpayers was at the cost of demonstrating inconstancy on the part of the United States to the people of the Solomons.

A year after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare ruptured relations with Taiwan in favor of Beijing in 2019, China established its first embassy in the Solomons. The defense pact that followed three years later caught the United States and Australia by surprise. Beijing has already provided crowd control equipment to the Sogavare government and paramilitary police training of local officers.

This worries opponents of Sogavare, who think he could use them to impose his increasingly undemocratic government on an unwilling electorate.

According to Grant Newsham, a retired U.S. intelligence officer and diplomat with several decades of experience in the Asia Pacific, the “Solomon Islands is being subverted by a corrupt, thuggish prime minister who is determined not to hold a proper election—that he would in all likelihood lose.”

Newsham, the author of “When China Attacks: A Warning to America,” wrote in an email to The Epoch Times about a large constituency in the Solomons that opposes the CCP’s threat to their freedom and encroachments on their society and economy.

Cleo Paskal, an expert on the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, notes that the embassy is a good signal to locals and China that the United States cares. She says that it indicates to Australia and other U.S. partners that they need to improve their relations in the Pacific Islands.

“When the U.S. pulled out, there was an implicit understanding that, in the case of Solomons and some others, Australia would ‘take the lead,'” she wrote in an email to The Epoch Times. “This was disrespectful to Solomon Islanders and clearly didn’t work as China romped through the region.”

Paskal warns that the first test for the new embassy is imminent, “as there is a seemingly PRC-backed Vote of No Confidence against Premier Suidani of Malaita Province—the one part of [the] Solomons that has stood up to Beijing.”

Newsham agrees that the diplomatic proof will be in the Solomons pudding.

The indicator to watch, he wrote, is whether the new embassy and its top diplomat “pay attention to and provide support for pro-U.S., pro-democracy constituencies and the basic concepts of honest consensual government, while also countering Chinese political warfare that is going full steam in the country.”

The Solomons benefit from the defense umbrella of the United States and its regional allies Australia and New Zealand. The country also enjoys U.S. and allied development assistance. Yet Sogavare and his allies bristle at any hint of U.S., Australian, or New Zealand influence in the Solomons, especially when it comes to opposing CCP influence.

Yes, the Solomon Islands is a sovereign country. Like all countries, it’s encouraged to follow its national interests to a large extent.

But Sogavare’s government is allegedly following its own corrupt interests, not those of the nation. It delayed elections based on an excuse, and so has only a tenuous claim to legitimate rule.

And for the good of democracy and human rights globally, there should be limits to any nation’s collaboration with the world’s most dangerous dictators. This applies most of all to cooperation with communist China, given its totalitarianism, human rights abuse, and its goal of global hegemony. There are just limits to sovereignty when it comes to supporting totalitarianism.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).
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