Solomons PM to lift foreign navy ships ban

A review on naval ship visits nears completion

September 6, 2022

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — A snap ban on foreign military vessels docking in Solomon Islands is poised to be lifted, the Pacific nation’s leader told parliament Monday.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said a review of the makeshift ban was “progressing very well. We do not expect the temporary moratorium to last for a long time.”

Two weeks ago, United States Coast Guard ship Oliver Henry opted to turn away from Honiara, capital of the Solomons, after a lengthy delay to their request to dock.

The HMS Spey, a British naval patrol vessel, also left Solomons waters before getting a late answer to their docking request.

Sogavare’s office then confirmed a snap ban on military vessels from “all countries” while naval approval processes were reviewed.

When asked on Monday about the Oliver Henry incident, Sogavare said it had not been refused permission but instead opted to leave “our waters prior to being informed of approval” to dock.

He said the “temporary” ban was because the Pacific nation had seen “a sudden increase” in requests for visits by military vessels.

“In many cases, service requests are made at short notice and there is expectation that all requests will always be approved,” Sogavare added.

“Each request needs proper assessment, including of the benefits and risks to Solomon Islands.”

He told parliament the review was nearly complete.

Sogavare has deepened his South Pacific nation’s ties with China, and faced street protests against his decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

After widespread rioting in Honiara and demands for his ouster last year, his government signed a secretive defense pact with Beijing that — according to a leaked draft — allows him to call in Chinese security forces to quell unrest.

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