Last week, a United States Coast Guard vessel, named the Oliver Henry, was unable to make a routine port stop as the Solomon Islands Government did not respond to a request to refuel. The move to suspend visits from Western ships comes less than six months after the Solomon Islands established a new security deal with China.
On Tuesday, Manasseh Sogavare, the Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister, issued a statement to clarify “misinformation” on media reports about the US ship.
The Prime Minister said the US ship had not been granted approval to dock in time because of a delay in paperwork.
He said: “The delay in these approvals demonstrates the need for the Government to review and refine its approval requirements and procedures for visiting military vessels to Solomon Island,
“The Government has asked all partner countries with plans to conduct naval visits or patrols to put them on hold until a revised national mechanism is in place.”
Mr Sogavare revealed that his Solomon Islands Government had issued a moratorium on all foreign vessels entering the area.
The Prime Minister said it applied “universally” to all foreign naval ships.
He said: “To this end, we have requested our partners to give us time to review and put in place our new processes before sending further requests for military vessels to enter the country.
“Once the new mechanism is in place, we will inform you all. We anticipate the new process to be smoother and timelier.”
The Solomon Islands has had tense relations with the US and other Western countries since striking a deal with China earlier this year.
China sent a delegation to secure a security deal with several Pacific Island countries in a call for greater cooperation in certain areas such as security, policing and economic development.
At the time, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Solomon Island’s security deal “open and transparent” and claimed Beijing had no intention of establishing any military bases.
He said: “China supports Pacific Island Countries in strengthening security cooperation and working together to address regional security challenges.”
There are concerns about China expanding its influence into the region as the Pacific Islands serve as a connection between Australia and the US territories of Guam.
The US has been making efforts to strengthen relationships with Pacific Island nations since the deal was announced.
Washington even re-opened its embassy on the Solomon islands for the first time in 29 years.