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Solomon Islands leaves US vessel's request to dock unanswered

The USCGC Oliver Henry was patrolling for illegal fishing in the South Pacific when it failed to refuel at Honiara.

A US Coast Guard vessel was unable to enter the Solomon Islands on Thursday for a routine port call as its government did not respond to a request for the vessel to refuel and provision, reports quoted a US official as saying.

It comes amid heightened relations between the Islands and the US since Honiara announced in May that it had signed a security pact with China.

The USCGC Oliver Henry was on patrol for illegal fishing in the South Pacific for a regional fisheries agency when its request to refuel at Honiara was turned down, a US coast guard press officer was quoted as saying.

The vessel was then diverted to Papua New Guinea, the official hastened to add.

"The Government of the Solomon Islands did not respond to the US Government's request for diplomatic clearance for the vessel to refuel and provision in Honiara," Kristin Kam, a public affairs officer for the US Coast Guard in Hawaii, said on the incident,

"The US Department of State is in contact with the Government of the Solomon Islands and expects all future clearances will be provided to US ships."

A British Royal Navy offshore patrol ship, HMS Spey, was also reportedly taking part in the monitoring activities and illegal fishing in the region in the economic exclusion zones of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

The vessel was also declined port access in the Solomon Islands, although the British Navy declined to comment on it.

“Ships’ programs are under constant review and it is routine practice for them to change,” a Royal Navy spokesperson was quoted as saying in an emailed statement. “For reasons of operational security, we do not discuss details.”

The United States, Australia, New Zealand, and France have been assisting 17 Pacific nations in maritime surveillance in Honiara, holding annual surveillance operations for illegal fishing.

In April, a senior US government official had refused to rule out military action against the Islands if it were to allow China to establish a military base in the South Pacific country.

The Solomon Islands government, however, categorically declared that the security agreement did not envisage the construction of military bases, dismissing it as "misinformation promoted by anti-government commentators”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman also denounced Washington for its hypocrisy, saying the US has built nearly 800 military bases in more than 80 countries and regions around the world, a policy that has already wreaked havoc around the world.

US and Australia have come out in fierce opposition to the deal that would see Beijing and Honiara working together on maintaining social order, protecting people's safety, aid, combating natural disasters, and helping safeguard national security.

Relations between the US and China have deteriorated further since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a controversial visit to Taiwan earlier this month, which prompted Beijing to hold its largest military drills around the self-ruled island.  

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