Washington warns Pacific islands against autocratic states

(Honiara) A senior US official in the Solomon Islands on Sunday warned Pacific countries against the advances of autocratic regimes, as China expands its influence in the region, the preserve of Washington and its allies.

Posted yesterday at 10:50 p.m.

Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is in the Solomons for the 80e anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, the first major land offensive by the United States and its allies against Japan in 1942 and a turning point in the Pacific War.

Mme Sherman warned, without naming names, of leaders who she said attempt to resuscitate “corrupt” ideas about the use of force and “believe that coercion, pressure and violence are instruments one can employ with impunity”.

Comparing the current situation to the Allied struggle against Nazism and Imperial Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, the American diplomat urged Pacific nations to resist authoritarianism.

“We remember how corrupt and empty those ideas were, and how they remain so today,” she said. “Today we are once again engaged in a fight of a different kind, a fight that will continue for the time being.”

The visit of M.me Sherman in the Solomon Islands comes as the United States seeks to regain a foothold in a region where China is increasingly active diplomatically.

The Solomon Islands government recently signed an opaque security pact with Beijing, is trying to curb press freedom and is considering postponing elections.

“It’s up to us to decide if we want to continue to have societies where people are free to express their opinions” and “if we want governments that are transparent and answerable to their people”, launched Mr.me Sherman in front of his hosts.

In addition to the warnings, Wendy Sherman said that Washington wanted to increase cooperation with the Pacific islands, “absolutely essential” according to her, in particular by opening embassies in Tonga, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.

As part of this charm offensive, US President Joe Biden will host Pacific Island leaders at the White House for a summit in September.

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