Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is attempting to delay the 2023 elections — which would normally take place between May and August — to 2024, causing concerns among civil society and regional partners regarding the country’s growing autocracy and ties to China. Delaying the vote is broadly unpopular and could spark protests. Some Solomon Islanders fear that Sogavare may use Chinese security forces to crack down on protesters, which would fuel further instability. Postponing the election may also set a dangerous precedent for the future, allowing Sogavare to further solidify his power.
On August 7, the Solomon Islands will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Guadalcanal campaign during a visit from U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, whose fathers both fought there in World War II. As the United States and its partners look to strengthen their relationships with the Solomon Islands, addressing the enduring legacies of WWII — particularly the issue of unexploded ordnance — should be a renewed focus.
In April, China signed an unprecedented security pact with the Solomon Islands, sparking regional concerns of a future Chinese military presence there. China’s pursuit of greater military reach in the Pacific Islands draws parallels to Imperial Japan’s construction of bases prior to World War II, and the implications are, likewise, strikingly similar. A Chinese military presence in the Pacific Islands could complicate transit between Australia and the United States, allow Beijing to increase its power projection in the second and third island chains, and bring Chinese military firepower closer than ever to Australian and U.S. territory. Can the United States and its partners prevent such an outcome?