By Kirsty Needham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – A United States Coast Guard ship could not enter the Solomon Islands for a routine port call after the Solomon Islands government did not respond to a request for fuel and provisions, a U.S. official said.
The islands’ government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Solomon Islands has had tense relations with the United States and its allies since it signed a security deal with China in May.
The USCGC Oliver Henry was on patrol for illegal fishing in the South Pacific for the regional fisheries agency when it failed to gain access to refuel in the Solomons’ capital of Honiara, a US Coast Guard press officer said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Instead, the US ship was diverted to Papua New Guinea, the official said.
The British Navy declined to comment on social media reports that HMS Spey, a patrol ship involved in Operation Island Chief to monitor illegal fishing in the economic exclusion zones of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Solomon Islands.
A Royal Navy spokesperson said in an emailed statement, “Ships’ programs are under constant review and it is normal practice for them to change. We do not discuss details for operational security reasons.”
The Solomons government and Beijing have denied the possibility of a Chinese military base on the islands, although a leaked draft showed the security agreement would allow the Chinese navy to dock and replenish.
The fisheries agency for the Pacific Islands Forum, a bloc of 17 Pacific nations, has a marine surveillance center in Honiara and conducts annual surveillance operations for illegal fishing with the help of Australia, the United States, New Zealand and France.
The USCGC Oliver Henry was scheduled for a routine logistics port call in the Solomon Islands, Kristin Kamm, public affairs officer for the US Coast Guard in Hawaii, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
“The Solomon Islands government has not responded to the US government’s request for diplomatic clearance to refuel and provision the ship in Honiara,” she said.
“The US State Department is in contact with the government of the Solomon Islands and expects all future clearances to be granted to US vessels,” she added.
HMS Spey was carrying Fijian naval officers as it worked with long-range maritime patrol aircraft from Australia and New Zealand and the US Coast Guard in an information-gathering operation for the Pacific Islands Forum fisheries agency, the Royal Navy said in a statement. Thursday.
They inspected suspicious vessels in ports as well as boarding at sea, the statement said.
A Royal Navy spokesman said it “looks forward to visiting the Solomon Islands at a later date”.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)