Solomon Islands suspends all naval visits: US embassy

Move comes a week after a US Coast Guard vessel was blocked from refuelling in the Solomons capital of Honiara. 

Aerial view of Honiara, showing the sea in the distance.
Ships are docked offshore in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, on November 24, 2018 [File: Mark Schiefelbein/ AP]

The Solomon Islands has told the United States it is suspending all navy ships from entering its ports.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US embassy in the Australian capital, Canberra, said it has “received formal notification from the Government of Solomon Islands regarding a moratorium on all naval visits, pending updates in protocol procedures”.

There was no immediate comment from the government of the Solomons.

The move came a week after a US Coast Guard vessel was blocked from refuelling in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.

The USCGC Oliver Henry was on patrol for illegal fishing in the South Pacific for a regional fisheries agency when it failed to obtain entry to refuel at Honiara, the US Coast Guard said. The vessel was instead diverted to Papua New Guinea.

The British Royal Navy did not comment directly on reports that the HMS Spey, also taking part in Operation Island Chief, was also denied a port call in the Solomon Islands.

“Ships’ programs are under constant review, and it is routine practice for them to change,” the Royal Navy said in a statement. “For reasons of operational security we do not discuss details. The Royal Navy looks forward to visiting the Solomon Islands at a later date.”

During Operation Island Chief, the US, Australia, Britain and New Zealand provided support through aerial and surface surveillance for Pacific island nations participating in the operation, including the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands has had a tense relationship with Washington and its allies since striking a security pact with China in May.

Both the Solomon Islands and China have denied their pact will lead to a Chinese military foothold in the South Pacific, although a leaked draft of the agreement showed the security agreement would allow the Chinese navy to dock and replenish.

Source: News Agencies