Solomons Prime Minister Sogavare tells US to respect, not lecture, Pacific leaders

Charley Piringi
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Solomons Prime Minister Sogavare tells US to respect, not lecture, Pacific leaders Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare gestures during a press conference at Honiara International Airport on Sept. 27, 2023 after returning from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Charley Piringi/BenarNews

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who declined to attend a United States-Pacific islands summit earlier this week, said Washington should show respect to the region’s leaders rather than lecturing them. 

The summit in Washington, the second in a year between President Joe Biden and leaders of Pacific island nations, was part of U.S. efforts to counter China’s inroads in the region that include a burgeoning relationship with the Solomon Islands. 

“They must respect Pacific leaders and change their strategies of meeting with Pacific leaders,” Sogavare said Wednesday after returning to the Solomon Islands from New York, where he spoke last week at the annual United Nations General Assembly.

Sogavare, who often echoes Beijing’s talking points, said he returned to the Solomon Islands rather than attending the Washington event so he could give attention to pressing domestic issues. 

The island nation of some 700,000 people was represented at the two day summit, which ended Tuesday, by Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele and Colin Beck, permanent secretary of the foreign affairs ministry.

“At least we have our representatives there. We were always given three minutes to talk and we will be sitting down only to listen to them lecturing us of how good they are,” Sogavare told reporters at a press conference at Honiara’s international airport.

A Biden administration official, who spoke on the condition they weren’t named, had said it was disappointing that Sogavare did not attend the summit, Reuters reported. 

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (center left) walks across the tarmac at Honiara International Airport on Sept. 27, 2023 after returning from New York where he spoke at the United Nations General Assembly. [Charley Piringi/BenarNews]

At the summit, Biden called on Congress to approve an additional U.S. $200 million of assistance for Pacific island nations, the latest move in his administration’s push to counter Chinese influence in a region crucial to U.S. defense.

U.S. interest in Pacific island nations was galvanized in early 2022 after Beijing and the Solomon Islands signed a security pact that the U.S. and allies such as Australia fear could lead to a Chinese military presence in the region. 

Since then the U.S. has agreed to increase its financial and economic assistance for Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau – three North Pacific countries that delegate their defense to Washington under longstanding compacts of free association. Subject to budget appropriations, the three nations would receive more than U.S. $7 billion over 20 years.

The first Pacific Islands-U.S. summit in September last year announced plans for more than U.S. $800 million in assistance to island nations over a decade. The figure included nearly tripling the payments tied to a tuna fishing treaty with Pacific nations to a total of U.S. $600 million between 2023-33.

Sogavare said his Cabinet will meet from Thursday to determine what bills to submit to parliament during the remainder of its sessions this year.

“I have a commitment and dedication to tackling domestic matters, especially with approximately 10 weeks remaining in the parliamentary calendar,” he said.

Under Sogavare, the Solomon Islands switched its diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 2019. His government has capitalized on the U.S.-China rivalry by securing more development assistance for a country that grapples with lack of roads, hospitals and jobs. 


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Oct 08, 2023 10:45 PM

Solomon Islands is not alone on this. Other Pacific Islands will soon take that path. Something the Pacific Island Nations can;t understand is that, after 1945, the United States and its Allies withdrew and went away, never thought of giving support to developm the Pacific Islands Natrions. Till when China comes in with its economic proposals to help,,,then US and its Allies show up. What is this nonsense! Rather stay away than oushing their noses in!