The prime minister of the Solomon Islands told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday that his country had been maligned over its closer relationship with China to the point of “intimidation”. In a speech that included language that echoed Beijing’s, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare also decried Washington’s engagement with Taiwan and its plan to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines through the Aukus alliance announced last year. He also took a swipe at Japan for Tokyo’s decision to dump radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. “The Solomon Islands have been unfairly targeted since formalising diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China just over three years ago,” Sogavare said. “We have been subjected to a barrage of unwarranted and misplaced criticisms, misinformation and intimidations that threatens our democracy and sovereignty.” The decision to formalise a relationship with Beijing, Sogavare added, “was reached through democratic processes by a democratically elected government”. While Sogavare also thanked the US, Australia and Japan for help with Covid-19 vaccines and other forms of support, the overall thrust of his speech favoured Beijing, said Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington. “There’s criticism laid out and there’s praise laid out for all except for China, where there is praise laid out but no criticism,” he said, adding that some of Sogavare’s comments were “very similar to lines that the Chinese would have used”. The Solomons, which consists of more than 900 islands in the South Pacific roughly 2,000km (1,200 miles) from Australia, became a key focus of concern for Washington and Canberra and their allies in the Indo-Pacific after it emerged earlier this year that Sogavare had signed a security agreement with Beijing. Japan steps up Pacific engagement amid China-Solomons pact concerns Details of the agreement have still not been released but a draft of the deal – leaked in March by the prime minister’s political opponents – would allow the Chinese navy to dock in the islands and permit Beijing to deploy its police and armed forces there, giving China a military foothold in the South Pacific. News of the agreement, signed three years after the Solomon Islands switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, triggered warnings from Canberra and prompted the US to send a delegation to Honiara, the Solomons’ capital, led by National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell. Campbell warned Sogavare that the US would “respond accordingly” should Beijing maintain any military presence in the Solomons. Campbell also said during his visit that the US would expedite the opening of a US embassy in Honiara. Continuing a volley of recriminations with leaders allied with the US, Sogavare used the General Assembly rostrum to turn the criticism back on them. China slams ‘double standards’ of Aukus nuclear subs deal He took particular aim at the Aukus partnership between the US, Australia and Britain, which aims to tip the balance of naval power in the Indo-Pacific in favour of the alliance by providing Australia a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines – a move widely seen to challenge Beijing’s military build-up. “Solomon Islands join other countries in the blue Pacific continent, who are signatories to the Rarotonga Treaty to maintain a nuclear-free Pacific,” Sogavare said, referring to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. “We reiterate our call for the total elimination of nuclear material, nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered military assets in our blue Pacific.” The treaty – a UN-registered agreement between 13 nations, including Australia – bans the use, possession and testing of nuclear weapons, but makes no mention of nuclear power generation. Aukus members have said that the submarines, to be built by Australia, will carry conventional weapons. Without placing blame specifically on the US for what has become known as the fourth Taiwan Strait crisis, which erupted after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei last month, Sogavare called for a halt to activity that would “inflame tensions”. “Looking at the wider region, the Taiwan Strait is one of the world’s busiest trading routes used for international shipping,” Sogavare said. “We call on all countries to be sensitive, and not inflame tensions that can threaten the unity and security of any country. “Any miscalculation could threaten international peace and security and could have disastrous consequences on global trade.” Japan: Fukushima nuclear plant plans seabed tunnel to release ‘dirty’ water Sogavare also slammed Washington’s decades-long restrictions on economic ties with Cuba while expressing gratitude to the Caribbean nation for training many doctors from his country. “We join the international community in reiterating the call for the lifting of the economic embargo on imposed on Cuba,” he said. “We commend Cuba’s resilience and urge the United States of America to take the initiative and normalise relations between the two close neighbours. The indictment of Washington’s relations with Cuba and Japan’s plan to discharge Fukushima nuclear plant water – which was also denounced at the UN gathering by David Panuelo, president of the Pacific island state of Micronesia – was a response to the way Washington, Tokyo and Canberra “had banded together and criticised” Sogavare, Gupta said.