Solomon Islands tells Pacific islands it won't sign White House summit declaration -note

By Kirsty Needham, David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina
SYDNEY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Solomon Islands have told Pacific nations invited to a White House meeting with President Joe Biden that they will not sign the summit declaration, according to a note from Reuters, raising concerns about the islands' ties to China triggers .
Leaders from the Pacific Island Forum Block have been invited to the two-day White House summit starting Wednesday, where the Biden administration aims to compete with China for influence in the strategically important South Pacific.
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The Solomon Islands, which struck a security pact with China in April, wrote to the Pacific Islands Forum asking it to let other members know they would not sign a proposed statement on the US-Pacific partnership to be discussed at the summit September 29 and needed more time for Parliament to consider the matter, Sunday's note said.
The President of the Federated States of Micronesia, David Panuelo, said in Washington on Tuesday that countries had been working on the summit declaration - "a vision statement" - that would cover five thematic areas, including human-centric development, combating climate change, geopolitics and security pacific region, commerce and industry and trade relations.
The Solomons note said the statement was "still without consensus".
"Solomons says it will not be able to sign the statement, but it is not asking others to follow suit," said Anna Powles, a Pacific security expert at New Zealand's Massey University, who saw the note.
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The office of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the White House National Security Council declined to comment.
Opposition Solomon Islands party leader Matthew Wales tweeted: "Strange inconsistency. Deals with China are signed in secret and kept secret. Now insist that Parliament has to deal with the regional deal with the US?
Solomon Islands, in the note signed by its embassy in Washington, says the Pacific Islands Forum already has a mechanism in place to reach out to partners outside the region.
"Of course, China is part of this mechanism, so the US is trying to create an alternative architecture like its own regional partnership framework," Powles said.
At an event in Washington hosted by Georgetown University, Panuelo said Pacific island nations have recognized the importance of "strength in numbers" and urged the superpowers to speak with them about the issues most important to the region.
Efforts to finalize the text of the statement ran into trouble this week during a call between the US State Department and Pacific Island ambassadors, when the US side demanded the removal of language agreed by the island nations for Washington to address the Marshall Islands nuclear issue , three sources familiar with the call, including a diplomat from a Pacific island nation, told Reuters.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham, David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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