High-level US delegation heads to Solomons to mark WWII amid China moves

(FILES) US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman attends a meeting with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hanoi on June 13, 2022. (Photo by LUONG THAI LINH / POOL / AFP)

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — A high-level US delegation will travel to the Solomon Islands to mark the 80th anniversary of the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal, months after the country signed a controversial security pact with China, the State Department announced Monday.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and other senior diplomats and military leaders will visit the islands’ capital Honiara from August 6-8 and attend memorial events organized with Japan, now a close US ally.

The visitors will include Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Australia, whose father, late president John F. Kennedy, was famously wounded in the Solomon Islands in a Japanese attack at sea in the wake of the decisive battle.

“These events will recognize the service and sacrifice of those who fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, including US and Allied forces, the people of Solomon Islands and the people of Japan,” a State Department statement said.

It said the US delegation will also “highlight the enduring relationship between the United States and Solomon Islands,” including the recent decision to reopen a US embassy in Honiara.

The Solomons in April signed a secretive security deal with China, defying warnings voiced by the United States and Australia which fear that a rising Beijing will exert its military clout farther into the Pacific.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, however, recently insisted that the Solomon Islands will not host a foreign military base for fear of becoming a target.

Sherman’s father was a Marine who was seriously injured in the Battle of Guadalcanal, a major offensive over six months in 1942 and 1943 that triggered a Japanese withdrawal and marked the start of major Allied operations in the Pacific.

© Agence France-Presse