South Pacific: Pacific Storms

The largest military operation in the South Pacific since the Second World War is now under way. An Australian-led regional force has intervened in the Solomon Islands at the national parliament’s invitation. This may signal a new era: Australia and New Zealand have previously resisted all calls for military interventions in the area. Worries about failed states and terrorism have sent the warships to sea, but the problems are unlikely to have military solutions.

The World Today Published 1 November 2003 Updated 21 October 2020 3 minute READ

Keith Suter

Director of Studies, International Law Association (Australian Branch)

There is now greater official recognition that many South Pacific countries are close to becoming ‘failed states’ – the Solomon Islands having led the way. At first glance this may seem surprising. After all, the area was so pro-American during the Cold War that the Soviet Union and China made very few attempts to foment tensions there. It was one of the few regions that was largely bypassed by the superpower standoff.

The area is potentially wealthy, not least from the sea and tourism. Countries are separated by large expanses of water and so unlike, say, Africa, there are no mass migrations of people fleeing conflicts in adjoining territories. All the states have links with western developed nations and have received much aid from them. Indeed, on a per capita basis, more aid has probably gone to this region than anywhere else. But not one country can offer a sparkling decolonisation success story.

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