Navy ships should be barred from Solomon Islands ports pending the new process

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sokaware addresses the 76th session of the UN General Assembly remotely via pre-recorded video on September 25, 2021 in New York City. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Pool

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SYDNEY, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Solomon Islands has suspended foreign naval vessels from entering its territorial waters pending the adoption of a new process for approving port calls, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Tuesday. Zones.

Entry was suspended last week following incidents where the US Coast Guard ship Oliver Henry and the Royal Navy ship HMS Spay were unable to make port calls after the government did not respond to requests for refueling and supplies.

“We have requested our partners to give us time to review our new processes before sending additional requests for military vessels to enter the country,” Prime Minister Manese Sogavare said in a statement.

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“These apply universally to all visiting naval vessels,” he said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Sogavare added that he wants to build national capacity to protect the Pacific island nation’s exclusive economic zones.

The Solomon Islands “had the unfortunate experience of foreign naval vessels entering the country’s territorial waters during the year without diplomatic permission,” the report said.

The suspension of naval ship visits will be lifted while a new process is in place.

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

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He also confirmed the delay in approving entry to the British naval vessel Spay, which canceled its scheduled port call.

Approval procedures

Earlier, the US embassy in the Australian capital announced that the Solomon Islands would ban naval vessels entering its ports.

“On Aug. 29, the United States received formal notice from the Government of the Solomon Islands of a moratorium on all naval visits, pending updates on protocol procedures,” the embassy said in a statement.

The embassy said Mercy had arrived ahead of the curfew and was monitoring the situation.

Solomon Islands has had a tense relationship with the US and its allies since it entered into a defense pact with China this year. read more

Beijing and Honiara have said there will be no Chinese military base, although a leaked draft suggests Chinese naval vessels will fill the strategically located archipelago.

Oliver Henry and HMS Spey were on patrol for illegal fishing in the South Pacific for a regional fishing company when they attempted to enter Honiara, capital of the Solomons, to refuel. read more

In July, the US announced plans to combat illegal fishing in the Pacific as part of increased US engagement with the region to counter China’s growing influence. read more

On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, “We’ve seen the Chinese try to intimidate and coerce countries across the Indo-Pacific to do their bidding and what they believe are their selfish national security interests, the broader interests of a free and open Indo-Pacific.” than”.

An Australian defense spokesman said diplomatic clearances for visiting foreign vessels were subject to the Solomon Islands government.

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“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: “We look forward to going to the Solomon Islands later.”

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

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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