Solomon Islands PM Sogavare says he snubbed US-Pacific summit to avoid ‘lecture’

The leader of Solomon Islands said he spurned a US-Pacific Islands summit this week to avoid being subjected to a “lecture” about the United States’ qualities.

The pro-China prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, also said he had “more important” business to deal with at home where he had a heavy legislative agenda in parliament.

“I am not going to sit down there and listen to people who lecture me, no way,” he told reporters on his return home on Wednesday evening in a news conference shown on local media.

Sogavare, who was in New York last week to attend the United Nations General Assembly, did not extend his stay in the US to attend the summit hosted by President Joe Biden on Monday.

“We’re disappointed that he’s chosen not to come to this very special summit,” a White House official said at the time.

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Sogavare said he had attended a similar Pacific summit last year.

“How these meetings are arranged, they give you three minutes to talk and then you go and listen to them lecture you, lecture you about how good they are,” he said.

“It needs now for them to respect Pacific leaders and leaders everywhere now. They need to change their strategies.”

Sogavare said he had been treated differently by the leaders of Australia, China and South Korea, who each held hour-long meetings with him.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape said in a statement on Wednesday the summit had seen the US make a significant pledge for infrastructure investment, and the meeting was a “significant step towards making the Pacific more secure and prosperous”.

Biden pledged to work with Congress to provide US$200 million more in funding for projects in the region aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change, spurring economic growth, countering illegal fishing and improving public health.

Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 22. Photo: AFP

At the UN General Assembly, Sogavare had praised China’s development cooperation as “less restrictive”.

The Solomons leader severed diplomatic ties with self-ruling Taiwan in 2019 in favour of official relations with Beijing, unlocking large sums of Chinese aid and investment.

In July, China rolled out the red carpet for Sogavare and signed a raft of deals, including one allowing it to extend its police presence in the island nation until 2025.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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