The Solomon Islands has joined the US Pacific Partnership, despite initially refusing to sign the declaration, in a major blow to China’s ambitions in the region.
A joint statement issued by the White House on Thursday confirmed the pact between 15 states, including the US, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and others.
“Today, in the face of a worsening climate crisis and an increasingly complex geopolitical environment, we recommit ourselves to working together in genuine partnership to address the mounting challenges of our time,” the joint statement said.
The partnership was agreed at a high-profile White House summit this week after weeks of negotiations between Biden administration officials and representatives of the Pacific island nations. These spanned issues including climate change, trade and security.
The pledge vowed to strengthen the partnership between the 15 countries, including the US, expanding diplomatic presence across them and helping with each country’s development.
Addressing climate change, the statement said: “As we combat the climate crisis, we will also work together to enhance the Pacific Islands’ climate resilience; increase their access to climate finance; cooperate to support the Pacific Islands to adapt to the impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels to more frequent flooding, cyclones and typhoons, drought and extreme weather events that contribute to the heightened risk of water, energy; and food and health insecurity.
“We are further committed to working together and with other countries and stakeholders to scale up finance and support related to averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage, in particular for vulnerable developing countries,” the statement added.
The countries also pledged to collaborate to improve infrastructure, transportation connectivity, cybersecurity capacities, and digital infrastructure in the Pacific.
The Solomon Islands move to join the declaration will be a blow for China. Washington and Beijing are vying for influence in the Pacific region amid increasing tensions over Taiwan’s sovereignty.
On Wednesday, it was reported that the Solomon Islands had informed its regional neighbors that it would not sign the declaration between the US and the Pacific island nations. In a note seen by Reuters dated September 25, the Solomon Islands government said it needed more time for its parliament to consider the agreement.
The disagreement came five months after the Solomon Islands signed a security agreement with China that concerned the US and Australia, with fears that Beijing would try to establish a military presence on the island state, which is about 1,200 miles from Australia.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told the UN General Assembly on September 24 that his country had been maligned over its closer relationship with China to the point of “intimidation.”
He also decried US engagement in Taiwan and its plan to send Australia nuclear-powered submarines through the Aukus alliance it announced last year, which faced criticism from China.
Newsweek has contacted the Chinese embassy in the US for comment.