BANGKOK: A United States coast guard cutter conducting patrols as part of an international mission to prevent illegal fishing was recently unable to get clearance for a scheduled port call in the Solomon Islands, according to reports, an incident that comes amid growing concerns of Chinese influence on the Pacific nation.
The cutter Oliver Henry was taking part in Operation Island Chief monitoring fishing activities in the Pacific, which came to a close on Friday (Aug 26), when it sought to make a scheduled stop on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, to refuel and re-provision, Coast Guard Lieutenant Kristin Kam told the Stars and Stripes military newspaper.
There was no response from the Solomon Islands’ government for diplomatic clearance for the vessel to land, however, so the Oliver Henry diverted to Papua New Guinea, Kam said.
She declined to specify when the incident occurred, and the Coast Guard did not immediately respond to emails or calls from The Associated Press for comment.
In a statement, however, the Coast Guard said the Oliver Henry had arrived in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on Tuesday “following a patrol in parts of the Coral Sea and the Solomon Islands.”
Britain’s Royal Navy did not comment directly on reports that the HMS Spey, also taking part in Operation Island Chief, was also denied a port call in the Solomon Islands.
“Ships’ programs are under constant review, and it is routine practice for them to change,” the Royal Navy said in an emailed statement.
“For reasons of operational security we do not discuss details. The Royal Navy looks forward to visiting the Solomon Islands at a later date.”
During Operation Island Chief, the US, Australia, Britain and New Zealand provided support through aerial and surface surveillance for Pacific island nations participating in the operation, including the Solomon Islands.