A delegation from the United States told Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday its concerns about a security pact he had signed with China and warned that should Beijing maintain any military presence there, the US would “respond accordingly”. The White House also said it would expedite the opening of a US embassy in Honiara, the island nation’s capital, and the two countries agreed to initiate a strategic dialogue and a programme on maritime domain awareness as well as advance a range of other initiatives. The delegation, led by National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell, flew to Honiara after it was announced this week that China and the Solomons had signed the security agreement. While details have not been released, a draft of the deal – leaked in March by political opponents of Sogavare – would allow the Chinese navy to dock in the islands and Beijing to deploy its police and armed forces there. According to the White House, Solomon officials emphasised that the pact with China “had solely domestic applications”; Sogavare tried to assure the delegation that “there would be no military base, no long-term presence, and no power projection capability” as a result of the agreement. Even so, the security pact is seen as a major inroad for China in the Pacific – where the Solomon Islands occupy a strategic position – and troubles other Pacific powers as well, including Japan, New Zealand and especially Australia , which pressed the Solomon Islands to scrap the deal. The distance between Australia and the Solomons is roughly 2,000km (1,200 miles), or nearly half that between Australia and mainland China. US Indo-Pacific chief on Solomon Islands mission amid China security concerns The US delegation met with senior officials from those three countries in Hawaii during the first leg of the delegation’s Pacific tour. China has long courted the Solomons through economic diplomacy. In 2019, the island nation broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognised Beijing. At the time, Sogavare said the switch put his country “on the right side of history”, but opposition was strong in some parts of the Solomons; violence erupted late last year when protesters clashed with police, causing millions of dollars worth of damage. Sogavare, who narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in December, said the deal would allow Chinese police to protect Chinese-financed infrastructure projects. Campbell had been expected to push Sogavare to back out of the deal, but it was signed before the US delegation arrived. China says that the deal is meant to promote peace and stability in the region. Its ambassador to the Solomon Islands, Li Ming, defended the pact on Friday. Wang Yi blames ‘forces with ulterior motives’ for Solomon Islands riots “Development and security are two sides of a coin. Without safety and security countries cannot enjoy sustainable development and economic growth,” he said. Honiara was the final destination on the US delegation’s Pacific tour following stops in Hawaii, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The China-Solomon Islands deal was discussed in Fiji and Papua New Guinea as well, according to the US embassy in Papua New Guinea. Besides Campbell, the delegation included Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and deputies from the Indo-Pacific Command and the Agency for International Development. According to reports, New Zealand and Tonga plan to bring up the deal at the next meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders, while Japan may send a vice-minister to the Solomon Islands to relay its concerns later this month.