A frame grab shows the US diplomatic team being taken from the airport for talks with the Solomons Islands' government in Honiara.
A frame grab shows the US diplomatic team being taken from the airport for talks with the Solomons Islands' government in Honiara. AFP / Jay LIOFASI

As the Russian-Ukraine war rages on in Europe, another "war" is brewing in the Pacific, the Chinese-US war of words to control the Solomon Islands.

According to a Reuters report, a delegation of senior United States officials visiting the Solomon Islands this weekend told Beijing that Washington wouldn't allow a permanent Chinese military base on the island nation.

Why is the Solomon Islands, a tiny island nation, suddenly another source of friction between China and the U.S.? Because it serves Beijing's interests to control the entire-Asian Pacific region and keep America and its allies off the South China Sea, which considers its sea.

"The Solomon Islands, a strategically located South Pacific archipelago, is currently being courted and visited by Canberra and Washington diplomats, following news of a yet-to-be-announced naval base deal with Beijing," Juscelino Colares Schott-van den Eynden Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University. "Such a deal would fit like a glove to the Chinese Communist Party's plan to dominate the Indo-Pacific region and thwart AUKUS, the Australia-United States-United Kingdom security pact designed to counter China's expansionist plans there. It follows similar strategic deals for bases or closer economic relations in key geographical locations, like Djibouti (Horn of Africa and gateway to the Red Sea), and Nicaragua and El Salvador (proximity to the Panama Canal)."

Last year, China and Solomon Islands announced a security pact to assure "peace and stability" in the region, followed by Beijing's plans to establish a naval base on the Pacific Island, which will place warships much closer to Australia's Northeastern Coast.

"This could help its Navy offset its aircraft carrier deficit and even gain an advantage over AUKUS by expanding its advanced land positions,” says Professor Colares. “One should recall that Guadalcanal is one of the islands in the archipelago which US forces had to control to make the final advance toward Japan in World War II. Should the Chinese emerge victorious in this courtship, it would have one more land base to add to the artificial islands it built, far up north in the South China Sea, in violation of its neighbors' sovereignty and international law. A few more steps and its Navy would distribute its forces and potentially control important sea lanes from the South China Sea to the Indo-Pacific region. This prospect would imbue the Biden Administration and its AUKUS partners with a greater sense of urgency." Thus, the recent warning from the US to Beijing to stay off the Solomon Islands.

Meanwhile, Beijing accused Washington of "dragging South Pacific into the geopolitical game."

"Washington's current interests in the South Pacific region are heavily military-focused," said a Globaltimes editorial last week. "The U.S. military plans to expand military bases in the region, and even deploy intermediate-range missiles in countries like Palau. This is undoubtedly dragging the South Pacific region into the geopolitical game of the great powers, threatening regional security and peace."

Apparently, Beijing considers itself a great power. But the editorial didn't explain who's threatening the South Pacific security and peace, for a good reason. The threat to peace and stability isn't America and its allies but China's ambitions to control the vast region.

"Projection, or the practice of inputting onto one's adversaries one's very own schemy intentions and plans, is a well-known tactic of Cold War Russian and present-day Chinese diplomacy," adds Professor Colares. "Replace Moscow's "Imperialism" claims against the United States (as it co-opted elites and intellectuals from Central/Eastern European, African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern countries and brought them to its sphere of control) with Beijing's claims that the United States wants merely "to use [the Solomon Islands] as a pawn," and one can see through the Chinese smoke screen."