The Solomon Islands, a South Pacific island group the United States liberated from Japanese slavery during World War II and helped to guide to post-war nationhood, recently chose to
prohibit a U.S. Coast Guard vessel to make a routine stop to refuel and resupply at a port in the Pacific island nation.
The U.S. government requested diplomatic permission for the Oliver Henry, a Guam-based Coast Guard cutter, to make a routine stop in Honiara on Aug. 23 but received no response, as Stars and Stripes was first to report.
SeaWaves magazine tweeted Aug. 24 that the Oliver Henry and the British patrol vessel HMS Spey were both denied entry into the Solomons.
The reason – the island nation’s government has come under the sway of Communist China by signing a security pact with China in April that the U.S. and Australia fear could allow Beijing to dispatch security forces there or even establish a naval base in imitation of the early 20th century Imperial Japanese expansion across the Pacific.
Pacific Islands like the Solomons are “the stepping stones to East Asia,” Alex Gray, who served as director for Oceania and Indo-Pacific security at the National Security Council during the Trump administration, told Axios.
And the Solomons are not the only South Pacific Islands that have attracted the interest of the Red Chinese.
French Polynesia, much like other Pacific islands, has always attracted wide international interest due to its geostrategic position explained Verdiana Garau in an article for Tablet Magazine.
Despite having a small population (less than 300,000 inhabitants in total, atolls included), and apparently very limited resources, French Polynesia remains crucial to both Chinese and Western strategic concerns. That’s because French Polynesia is tantamount to a power projection highway, running through the heart of the Pacific into Asia, and connecting the military forces stationed on a sweep of islands sprinkled between Hawaii, Australia, and the Philippines along the way.
French Polynesia, much like the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands—both major maritime passageways—offers a good amount of untapped resources that China needs to feed its hungry industries and people.
And this is one Ms. Garau most important points: It also represents a voting bloc that China needs to expand its foreign power in international institutions that have been conditioned over the past decades to serve Chinese interests, and whose membership benefits from Chinese investment and sometimes security assistance. The Pacific islands represent an important part of China’s maritime Silk Road, with China trying to include them in its Belt and Road Initiative by boosting economic aid, investing in infrastructure projects, and replacing diplomatic ties to Taipei with diplomatic ties to Beijing.
The Red Chinese perceive many threats emanating from the South Pacific region, but in their eyes the important threat is the perceived American threat, since the natural geographical line traced by these islands acts as the perfect American barrier to Chinese maritime expansion.
In this the Chinese Communists are no different than their imperialistic Japanese predecessors who viewed the Indo-Pacific region as a source of natural resources to exploit and as series of island-based defensive rings.
In addition to the fishing resources, which Red China has exploited in a piratical way all across the Pacific, even as far as Peru and the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia’s 5 million square kilometers of ocean hide an impressive amount of rare earth and gas. But according to Gaston Flosse, the first and five-time president of French Polynesia, the islanders do not have the money or know-how in order to further the search.
Enter Red China.
Mr. Flosse recounted to Ms. Garau that, “I received the Chinese president’s delegation. China is the biggest producer of rare earths. They said, ‘We have a proposal for you. I said, ‘Let’s hear it.’ They said, ‘We are going to rent all the ocean surface you own for exploration and the necessary research. We will pay you good money. When the research comes to an end, we will keep the monopoly on it.’ It goes without saying that I denied the offer and my answer was a firm no.”
However, Mr. Flosse is 91 years old and the bulwark against Communist China that Mr. Flosse and his pro-French, pro-western political party represent is not impenetrable.
By devastating the tourism industry, COVID reduced many poor Polynesians to abject poverty and Mr. Flosse's rival, Oscar Temaru, the leader of the pro-independence party and himself a five-time president of French Polynesia is anti-imperialist, anti-American, anti-France. Temaru says that without a doubt he will go along with the Chinese if it means getting rid of France reported Ms. Garau.
This isn’t mere nostalgia for America’s World War II victories. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it and our war against Imperial Japan in the Western and Southern Pacific should have indelibly printed the strategic importance of these islands on the minds of American policymakers.
Yet, the United States closed its embassy in the Solomon Islands in 1993 and, to the extent that it has any interest in the far Pacific, it has been focused on Taiwan. The Red Chinese, on the other hand, have been able to fix our gaze on Taiwan, while exploiting the same strategic path first blazed by the Imperial Japanese almost 100 years ago – follow the island chains out from the mainland coast of Asia, capture them economically (and militarily) and sever the connection between the United States, Australia and the Indonesian archipelago.
While the United States has taken its eye off the strategic value of the Pacific Islands, Joe Biden, a weak and doddering U.S. president who may be subject to Chinese pressure or blackmail, appears to be giving Communist China the idea that now is the time to further assert its hegemony in the Western and Southern Pacific.
George Rasley is editor of Richard Viguerie's ConservativeHQ.com and is a veteran of over 300 political campaigns. A member of American MENSA, he served on the staff of Vice President Dan Quayle, as Director of Policy and Communication for then-Congressman Adam Putnam (FL-12) then Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, and as spokesman for retired Rep. Mac Thornberry formerly Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
The Solomon Islands
U.S. Coast Guard
Rare earth minerals
COVID tourism impact
community of common destiny
all domain warfare