As China’s communist regime continues to expand its global footprint, one of its most concerning moves is its infiltration of the Solomon Islands, a small Pacific nation struggling to maintain its independence. Peter Kenilorea Jr., a member of the Solomon Islands Parliament and chair of its Foreign Relations Committee, warns that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been making significant inroads into the country since Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s pro-China government assumed power in 2019. In an exclusive interview with The Epoch Times, Kenilorea shed light on the alarming situation in the Solomon Islands, where pro- and anti-CCP sentiments are dividing the nation.
China’s infiltration goes beyond diplomatic relations; it’s a battle for the hearts and minds of the Solomon Islands’ people. Kenilorea describes this as “the switch,” a term used to highlight the transformation that began when Sogavare decided in 2019 to withdraw the nation’s diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of the CCP.
During a recent meeting with Rep. Mike Gallagher, chairman of the U.S. House Select Committee on the CCP, Kenilorea discussed the critical issue of CCP infiltration. He expressed hope for stronger U.S. engagement with the Solomon Islands to counteract the growing pro-China sentiment.
However, forging meaningful engagement is not straightforward. The Sogavare administration recently signed a comprehensive strategic partnership with the CCP, following an agreement in 2022 to borrow over $66 million from a Chinese state-owned bank for the construction of 161 telecommunications towers by tech giant Huawei. These towers have raised concerns in the United States, as there is suspicion that similar Huawei equipment in the U.S. could compromise sensitive information.
The Solomon Islands’ “debt trap” dealings with China have raised alarms, with the CCP targeting the country’s constituents with propaganda to garner support for such projects. Kenilorea has consistently argued against these agreements, emphasizing their detrimental impact on his nation.
Unfortunately, those who raise concerns about the Sogavare administration’s close ties with the CCP often face retaliation, which further stifles free speech. Former Malaita Province Premier Daniel Suidani, who spoke out against the government’s pro-China policies, claimed that members of the national government received bribes from the CCP to support his removal from office. This suggests that CCP-backed interests are actively working to undermine critics in the Solomon Islands.
The Biden administration has expressed a desire to engage with Pacific island nations as part of its Indo- Pacific Strategy. This approach, however, is seen by the CCP as an effort to contain its global rise. The CCP- backed Sogavare administration has gone as far as removing the phrase “Indo-Pacific” from public
documents. Prime Minister Sogavare despises the term and seeks to eliminate it wherever it appears. Efforts by the U.S. to draft new agreements with the Solomon Islands have been hindered by Sogavare’s attempts to remove references to the Indo-Pacific as a cohesive region.
Misinformation also abounds, suggesting that the Indo-Pacific framework conflicts with the Solomon Islands’ interests and existing political structures. This misinformation hampers international cooperation and diplomacy in the region. To ensure a prosperous future for the Solomon Islands and the broader Indo- Pacific, it is crucial for the U.S. and the island nation to maintain continued engagement at the leadership level and promote cooperation.
The concept of the Indo-Pacific is not fully understood by some leaders in the region. They need to grasp the significance of this idea and their role within it. The Indo-Pacific framework serves as a means of ensuring regional stability and prosperity. It is not meant to undermine any nation’s sovereignty but rather to foster economic and diplomatic collaboration across the Pacific. Kenilorea emphasizes the importance of educating leaders on this concept to promote mutual understanding and cooperation. China’s actions must be countered. The leaders of Solomon islands must be educated about the threat posed by China. Dealing with China is equal to dealing with the devil. In conclusion, the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the Solomon Islands poses a significant threat to the nation’s sovereignty. Through diplomatic agreements, infrastructure projects, and propaganda efforts, the CCP has embedded itself in the country’s politics and society. The international community, especially the United States, must remain vigilant and support the Solomon Islands in resisting these influences. Ensuring the nation’s independence and promoting the Indo-Pacific framework are crucial steps toward countering China’s encroachment in the region and safeguarding global stability.