HONIARA: A White House envoy today decried “disinformation and smears” about US motives in the Solomon Islands today, after his meeting with the country’s pro-China leader was overshadowed by unsubstantiated rumours of dark plots and geopolitical intrigue.
Veteran US diplomat Kurt Campbell visited Honiara as part of Washington’s effort to counter growing Chinese political, economic and security influence in the South Pacific.
There he met Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who has previously lashed out at western nations and signed a secretive security deal with Beijing that has brought a steady trickle of Chinese police officers to the country.
Campbell told reporters that his visit was designed to promote a “positive agenda” that tackles Pacific priorities like climate change, protection of fish stocks and education exchanges.
But he also faced questions at the press conference about an unsubstantiated report of a supposedly US-backed plot to kill Sogavare that has featured in at least one local newspaper.
Rumours of coup plots and assassination attempts bubble to the surface frequently in the Solomon Islands, but the acts themselves rarely materialise.
“The US has been the subject of some disinformation and smears, we find that deplorable,” said Campbell, who is currently President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific coordinator.
“I can’t say it more clearly. We’re here with the best intentions determined to work in support of the people of the Solomons islands.”
Political tensions in the country have intensified since 2021 anti-government riots that highlighted political, regional and ethnic divisions.