China’s Influence In The Solomon Islands On The Rise

China’s influence in the South Pacific is on the rise and this should be causing concern in Washington and Canberra. Last week’s refusal by the government of the Solomon Islands to allow a US Coast Guard ship to make a scheduled port call on Guadalcanal has raised eyebrows around the region. A Royal Navy ship was also apparently denied a port call as well. The two ships were undertaking an international mission to prevent illegal fishing in the Solomon Islands area. The USCG ship sailed on to Papua New Guinea and put in at Port Moresby. It is unclear if the British ship followed suit.

China’s influence in the Solomon Islands stems from Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signing a security pact with Beijing. The main fear attached to the pact is that it gives China the opportunity to establish a military presence in the Solomon Islands, in close proximity to Australia, New Zealand and Guam. Sogavare beginning to excel in the role of bootlicker to his Chinese allies. Earlier this month he did not attend a memorial service marking the anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, a major US victory in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. By continuing to thumb his nose at the United States, Sogavare appears to be attempting to gain favor with his Chinese allies. At the present rate it will likely be just a matter of time before Chinese fishing vessels start to visit the waters around the Solomon Islands. From there the tempo will increase, perhaps in a manner similar to what we recently saw in Sri Lanka.

The South Pacific certainly deserves some monitoring in the coming months.

Note: Ukraine seems to be heating up a bit, so that will be our next stop tomorrow or Wednesday.

Biden’s Asia Trip Produces More Questions Than Answers

Joe Biden’s first trip to Asia as president was positively gushed over by many in the media. Foreign policy and political pundits attached to left-leaning publications and news channels applauded Biden for adopting a strong position against China during his trip. While in Tokyo, Biden rolled out the framework for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a trade pact the administration is hoping will serve as a counter to China’s growing economic power and influence in the Indo-Pacific region. On this past Monday, Biden stated the United States will defend Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese invasion. Strong, confident words and proposed action by the leader of the free world.

Unfortunately, some factors were left out of Biden’s calculations. To no one’s surprise, most left-wing and/or mainstream journalists failed to make mention of this. On the economic side, Taiwan has not received an invitation to join the IPEF despite demonstrating high interest in becoming a member. Militarily, despite Biden’s promise and sentiment, the United States does not have a concrete war plan centered on countering a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Sure, Indo-Pacific Command has dozens of contingency plans and hypotheticals available to work from, as do the individual services. So, Biden has promised to defend Taiwan with American blood even though the military has no realistic plan for this at the present time. Then we have the administration deliberately keeping Taiwan away from IPEF membership because bringing Taipei aboard will be viewed as provocative and controversial by Beijing.  

Not surprisingly, China is less than thrilled by the US following IPEF and Biden’s Taiwan comments. On Tuesday, as leaders of the Quad nations met in Tokyo, Chinese and Russian bombers flew in close proximity to Japanese airspace. Chinese officials were vocal in denouncing IPEF while China’s state-run media claim the pact is ‘economic NATO.’ Xi Jinping will likely limit his country’s response to verbal outrage and a handful of snap air and sea exercises. Quite honestly, China has more pressing problems to worry about closer to home right now.

In time, China will get around to adopting an effective counter to IPEF and Biden’s newfound military confidence. Then the competition for supremacy in Asia will officially begin.

Around the World Update 7 April, 2022: China-Solomon Islands Security Pact Causing Concerns

China’s controversial new security agreement with the Solomon Islands continues to generate uncertainty and concern around the South Pacific region and beyond. Australia and New Zealand have openly expressed their misgivings on the agreement. On the surface, the pact potentially places Chinese military forces on the doorstep of both nations. In the event of a crisis or open hostilities, the terms of the agreement can transform the Solomons into a Chinese military encampment.

Canberra sent two senior intelligence officials to the Solomons to discuss Australia’s concerns with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who stated that Australia remains his nation’s ‘partner of choice.’ There is still some confusion over whether or not the agreement has been signed by the Solomon Islands or just initialed by Sogavare, as he claims. In a statement released early Thursday, the Solomon Islands government said the meeting with Australian envoys has enabled both countries to understand the terms of the China agreement more thoroughly.

Sogavare continues to claim the agreement is “domestically focused.” Yet the draft document states that Chinese warships could stop in the Solomons for “logistical replenishment” and that China could send police, military personnel and other armed forces to the Solomons “to assist in maintaining social order.”

China-Solomon Islands Security Agreement Sparks Alarm in the Pacific

There are indications China and the Solomon Islands are near a security agreement that could lead to the basing of Chinese troops, aircraft and warships on the island. The agreement remained secret until Thursday evening when opponents of the agreement leaked it online. Hours later, the Australian government verified its authenticity, raising concerns around the Pacific region. If China is allowed to establish basing rights and a significant military presence on and around the Solomons, it will cause problems for the security of Australia and New Zealand, as well as introduce the prospect of resource exploitation.

If the agreement is signed into law, it gives Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands the ability to call on China for protection of his own government. Last year, amid unrest brought on by Sogavare’s open courting of China, Australian law enforcement officers deployed to the Solomons essentially to save Sogavare and his government.

An unnerving section of the agreement states, “Solomon Islands may, according to its own needs, request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces to Solomon Islands to assist in maintaining social order, protecting people’s lives and property.”

With this clause, the prospect of widescale unrest in the Solomons prior to next year’s election leading to Chinese intervention to maintain Sogavare’s hold on power becomes very real. As the guarantor of the islands’ security, Australia reacted to the document leak and its contents at once. “We would be concerned by any actions that destabilize the security of our region,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement soon after the pact was made public. “Members of the Pacific family are best placed to respond to situations affecting Pacific regional security.”

China has been making inroads in the South Pacific gradually over the years. In the Solomons, Beijing has found a willing partner in Sogavare, forcing Australia and the United States to play catch up at a time when the attention of both nations is centered elsewhere.

The Pentagon Plans Improvements To Pacific Military Bases. Too Little, Too Late?

The Pentagon is planning to begin building up key military installations in the Pacific theater early in 2022. The purpose behind the move is to counter and deter China. The build up and improvements will affect Andersen AFB and US Navy facilities on Guam as well as a number of installations in northern Australia which US forces operate from. Infrastructure improvements are at the top of the list with the overall goal to make these locations able to absorb larger numbers of troops, aircraft and supplies in the event of a crisis. The origins for the decision to build up and improve these installations stem from the Global Posture Review, the end result of months of analysis and investigation by the service branches and numerous government agencies to recommend changes to the postures and deployments of US forces in theaters worldwide. The recommendations for the Pacific region did not stop at infrastructure updates. The GPR also strongly recommends the US increase cooperation and planning with allies in the region, as well as increase the number of combat-ready assets in theater.

How much impact the GPR recommendations will have if implemented is anyone’s guess at this point. With China’s recent saber-rattling and its progress made in hypersonic weapon testing, all eyes are on the Pentagon and White House. One concern among defense analysts and former DoD officials is that the GPR’s findings are a matter of being too little, too late. The People’s Republic of China is obviously gearing up for a future war in the region. These measures have been underway for some time now. The US response has been rather slapdash. Part of the reason for this is the absence of a solid doctrine for fighting a potential war in the Pacific against China. In the past decade every effort to craft such a doctrine has withered on the vine due to political indifference or the simple fact that the doctrine was inadequate. From Air-Sea Battle to its successor JAM-GC, the Pentagon has been a day late and a dollar short.

Quite honestly, the current situation in the Pacific seems to resemble Europe in 1939. Once again, we have a nation-state building up its military and preparing for war in front of the entire world. The world has taken note of the developments but the regional and global powers have done little to challenge China’s actions and intentions, and will fail to do so until the shooting starts. By then, as history has shown us countless times before, it will be too late. As for the US military in late 2021, its resemblance to the British and French militaries in the summer of 1939 is astoundingly close. Stale doctrine, low readiness and indifferent senior officers combined to bring about disastrous defeats on the battlefield from late 1939 through 1940.

I pray that I’m incorrect, but it appears we are going down a similar road at present.