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China accuses US of bullying Pacific

In a scathing article, the Global Times, widely regarded as the voice of the Chinese Communist Party, has slammed an upcoming visit to the Solomon Islands by senior US Government representatives.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is scheduled to visit the Solomons in August, along with newly appointed US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, whose father, former US President John F Kennedy, served in the Pacific during World War Two.

However the Global Times has labelled the visit one to “compete for regional influence with China”, after “the poor legacy the US has left in the region”.

It said the US “seems to be trying to eliminate the positive influence and practical help China has provided to the South Pacific.”

US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy with Australia’s governor general David Hurley. Picture: US Embassy Australia

As is typical of the Global Times, it quoted Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Center at the East China Normal University.

Mr Chen is often quoted by the publication and is known for his anti-Australian and pro-Chinese Government rhetoric. In 2020 his Australian visa was cancelled following an Australian security services assessment that he posed a direct or indirect risk to security.

“The US is likely to conduct a political offensive to bully Solomon Islands officials and support some anti-China political forces, media and non-governmental organisations,” Mr Chen was quoted as saying.

He continued, “This is the usual US ploy to create political pressure within other countries.”

Mr Chen accused America of using the South Pacific “as a tool with a colonialist and imperialist mentality” and lauded China’s work in the region.

“Unlike the US, the projects that China has invested in building are clearly showing positive results to all residents,” he said.

The Global Times also pointed to past US nuclear testing in the Pacific, action that caused the deaths of thousands of Marshallese people.

Between 1946 and 1958 the US detonated 67 nuclear bombs on, in or above the Marshall Islands, and there is still much anger in the country over the lack of responsibility taken by the US.

Mr Chen pointed out that, “their (Marshallese people) lingering negative feelings toward the US could also affect US attempts to re-engage in the region.”

The article targeted Ms Kennedy, the newly appointed US ambassador to Australia, accusing her of being on a (presumably secret) mission that goes beyond her stated role.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (R). No time is being wasted by the United States to make sure engagements with the Solomon Islands are truly maintained. Picture: Wendy R Sherman Twitter

“Through her, the US hopes to increase the divide between China and Australia and undermine cooperation between China and countries in the South Pacific,” Mr Chen said.

“Kennedy has experience working in Japan and understands the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, the US expects her to exert her family’s influence and exert control over Australia.”

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For her part, Mr Kennedy told Australian media on her arrival that she is excited to visit the Solomons.

“This is a critical area in the region, and I think the US needs to do more.

“We’re putting our embassies back in and the Peace Corps coming, and USAID is coming back and we’re coming back,” she said.

Admitting that the US has likely dropped the ball in the Pacific, she stated that the US and Australia working together will make a positive impact.

Senior US officials to visit Solomons

No time is being wasted by the United States to make sure engagements with the Solomon Islands are truly maintained.

Another high level US delegation is headed to the Solomon Islands. This time it is the US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman and US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy.

According to a White House statement, Ms Sherman’s and Ms Kennedy’s fathers fought in World War Two and will be there to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Ms Sherman will then proceed to officially reopen the US embassy in Honiara which the US had promised some months earlier.

According to the statement this is to highlight the enduring relationship between the United States and Solomon Islands.

Ms Kennedy is the daughter of late US president John F Kennedy who in the Solomon Islands campaign was a patrol boat captain in World War Two.

Ms Sherman’s father Mal Sherman, was a marine wounded at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

In Honiara, Ms Sherman will deliver remarks at a US-organised ceremony on Skyline Ridge, site of the US Guadalcanal Memorial, as well as at a Solomon Islands-hosted memorial at Bloody Ridge.

The US had been absent and mostly inactive in the Pacific and were caught off guard when they realised that the Chinese influence in the Pacific had grown exponentially.

China had become a partner in security matters including training of defence forces and providing countries with equipment and grants.

In the Solomon Islands, China’s aid is leading the charge in ensuring a successful 2023 Pacific Games as they are funding, building and upgrading most facilities for the regional games.

The Solomon Islands security deal with China allows the Pacific nation to seek assistance for deployment of security personnel during civil unrests.

This deal when signed had fanned concerns in Australia, New Zealand and the US but Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has repeated that there would be no foreign military base in the country.

The Micronesian nation of Kiribati has become the latest centre of attention in the Pacific after withdrawing from the Pacific Islands Forum. Many commentators have been quick to say that this was because of a deal signed with China.

At the recently held Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit, US vice president Kamala Harris announced that they would open an embassy in Tarawa in Kiribati.

The visit by the US delegations will be from August 4 to August 6.

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