The Solomon Islands “denied entry” to a United States navy ship and also one from Britain’s navy last week.
The ships were requesting to stop in the Pacific Island nation to resupply and refuel.
On Tuesday, the prime minister’s office said that the ships were restricted from entering because of new rules for approving port visits by foreign ships.
But western countries are concerned the restriction is a result of the Solomon Islands’ recent security agreement with China.
Earlier in August, the U.S. Navy boat called the Oliver Henry reported receiving no answer when it requested to refuel and take supplies at the capital of Honiara. And on August 23, a ship from Great Britain, the HMS Spey, was not permitted to visit the port.
John Kirby is a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council. He called the decision to restrict foreign ships “regrettable.” Kirby went on to say the restrictions limit “the broader interests of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The Reuters news agency said the HMS Spey was working with an effort called Operation Island Chief. The program looks out for illegal fishing in the waters of the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare sent a statement to Reuters. It said foreign nations should “give us time to review and put in place our new processes before sending further requests for military vessels to enter the country.”
The Solomon Islands said it has had a number of foreign ships enter its waters this year without proper diplomatic approval.
The restrictions will end when the country decides on a new process for permitting the ships.
In a speech Tuesday, Sogavare said the U.S. ship Oliver Henry was stopped from entering because his office had not received information about the boat’s plan in time.
The new restrictions, however, will not prevent work by the U.S. navy medical ship Mercy because it received permission before the new restrictions.
The Mercy is in the area as part of a humanitarian mission along with Australian and Japanese partners. It started seeing sick people on August 30.
The island nation is in the Pacific Ocean, only about 3,000 kilometers from the U.S. territory of Guam. The Solomon Islands’ new security agreement with China has made the U.S. and its allies in the area concerned. So far, the agreement only permits China to provide military support as a way to protect its investments in the area. However, some experts say the agreement might permit China to build a naval base there in the future.
But Sogavare spoke earlier this year about a possible military base. He said it is not in the interest of the Pacific island area for any country to permit the establishment of a military base.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reports by Reuters and VOA.
Words in This Story
broad –adj. including or involving many things or a wide area
vessel –n. a ship or a large boat
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