A US coastguard vessel was unable to enter the Solomon Islands for a routine port visit because the government failed to respond to a request to refuel and supply, a US official said.
The Solomons government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. It has had a tense relationship with the US and its allies since it signed a security pact with China in May.
USCGC Oliver Henry was on illegal fishing patrol in the South Pacific for a regional fisheries agency when it was denied access to refuel in Honiara, the capital of the Solomons, a US Coast Guard press officer said in an emailed statement.
The ship was instead diverted to Papua New Guinea, the official said.
The British Navy declined to comment on social media posts that Solomon Islands port access was also unavailable for patrol vessel HMS Spey – which also participated in monitoring illegal fishing in Fiji’s economic exclusion zones, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
“Ship programs are under constant review and it is routine to change them,” a Royal Navy spokesman said in an emailed statement. “We are not discussing details for operational security reasons.”
The government of the Solomons and Beijing have ruled out a Chinese military base in the islands, though a leaked draft showed the security deal would allow the Chinese navy to dock and resupply.
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, a bloc of 17 Pacific countries, has a maritime surveillance center in Honiara and annually monitors illegal fishing with help from Australia, the US, New Zealand and France.
The Oliver Henry was scheduled for a routine logistics port call in the Solomon Islands, said Kristin Kam, public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard in Hawaii.
“The government of the Solomon Islands has not responded to the US government’s request for diplomatic approval for the vessel to refuel and resupply in Honiara,” it said in a statement.
“The US State Department is in contact with the government of the Solomon Islands and expects all future approvals to be issued to US ships.”
HMS Spey had Fiji naval officers on board as it teamed up with long-range maritime patrol aircraft from Australia and New Zealand and the US Coast Guard in the operation to gather intelligence for the Pacific Islands Forum fisheries agency, the Royal Navy said in a statement on Thursday. .
It conducted inspections of suspected ships in ports and when embarking at sea, it said.
The Royal Navy spokesman said it “looks forward to visiting the Solomon Islands at a later date”.