- Solomon Islands denies US Coast Guard vessel permission to refuel and provision, US official says.
- A request for comment from Reuters was not immediately answered by the islands’ government.
- Since signing a security agreement with China in May, the Solomon Islands’ relationship with the United States has been contentious.
According to a US official, the Solomon Islands administration ignored a request for the US Coast Guard vessel to refuel and provision, therefore it was unable to enter the country for a routine port call.
A request for comment from Reuters was not immediately answered by the islands’ government. Since signing a security agreement with China in May, the Solomon Islands’ relationship with the United States and its allies has been contentious.
A US Coast Guard press officer informed Reuters via email that the USCGC Oliver Henry was on patrol for a regional fisheries agency looking for illegal fishing in the South Pacific when it was denied permission to refuel at Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.
The official reported that the US ship was moved to Papua New Guinea.
The patrol vessel HMS Spey, which is a participant in Operation Island Chief to look for illegal fishing in the economic exclusion zones of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, was denied port access by the Solomon Islands, according to social media reports. The British navy declined to comment on the reports.
“Ships’ programs are under constant review, and it is routine practice for them to change. For reasons of operational security we do not discuss details,” a Royal Navy spokesman said in an emailed statement.
Despite a leaked draught showing that the security pact would permit the Chinese navy to dock and resupply, a Chinese military facility on the Solomon Islands has been rejected by both Beijing and the government of the Solomon Islands.
With cooperation from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and France, the fisheries agency for the Pacific Islands Forum, a group of 17 Pacific Island countries, conducts annual monitoring operations for illicit fishing from its maritime surveillance centre in Honiara.
According to a statement sent to Reuters by Kristin Kam, public affairs officer for the US Coast Guard in Hawaii, the USCGC Oliver Henry was scheduled to make a normal logistics port visit in the Solomon Islands.
“The Government of the Solomon Islands did not respond to the U.S. Government’s request for diplomatic clearance for the vessel to refuel and provision in Honiara,” she said.
The U.S. Department of State is in communication with the Solomon Islands’ government and anticipates that all upcoming approvals will be given to American ships, she continued.
The US Coast Guard, Australian, New Zealand, and Fijian naval personnel were all aboard HMS Spey as it participated in the mission to gather data for the Pacific Islands Forum fisheries agency, according to a statement released by the Royal Navy on Thursday.
The statement claimed that it boarded questionable ships at sea as well as inspecting them in ports.
The Royal Navy spokesman said it “looks forward to visiting the Solomon Islands at a later date.”
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