The battle fields of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, draw visitors from the United States and its war allies, as well as those from Japan, decades after the bloody campaign in the South Pacific ended.
But in recent weeks, some visitors say they have been prevented from accessing one of Guadalcanals most significant World War Two sites, which includes a Japanese war monument, after a deal handed control of the land to a company controlled by a Chinese businessman.
Tour operators and the Japanese ambassador to the Solomons say it appears to be a case of a lack of understanding of the significance of the Alligator Creek site by the new owner.
The issue has stirred up debate in the Solomons concerning its new relationship with China, which was formalized in September following the Pacific island nations decision to sever its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing.
In a setback for self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, which China claims as a province with no right to state-to-state ties, Beijing also won over Taiwanese ally Kiribati, just days after the Solomon Islands cut off ties with Taipei.
That decision has alarmed the now aligned United States and Japan, with U.S. officials expressing concern about Chinas “use of economic and military levers” to increase its influence in the South Pacific.
“I would like the problem settled in a peaceful way,” Japans ambassador to the Solomons, Shigeru Toyama, told Reuters by phone from the capital, Honiara.
Toyama said he hoped to meet with the new owners, JQY Ltd., in the coming days.
“I hope they will pay much attention to the monument and will reconcile how to preserve it,” said Toyama.
The new owner has built a fence around part of the Alligator Creek site that takes in the Japanese monument, said tour operator Francis Deve, and access is dependent on whether security guards at the locked gate were present to take visitors in.
“There used to be local people sitting next to the site who put flowers around the monument; they were chased out and they put up a fence,” Deve told Reuters on the phone from Guadalcanal.
A JQY representative in Honiara did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism was liaising with the owner to discuss potential heritage plans for the area around the monument, the Solomons government said in a statement.
Battle for Hells Point
Tourism is an important income-earner for the Solomons, with most visitors drawn by the countrys diving spots and war relics, which are generally accessible to the public, tour operators told Reuters. The archipelago is also heavily reliant on logging and fisheries.
JQY is registered to Chinese businessman Yang Jiangqing, who was part of a delegation that accompanied Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to Beijing last month where the two countries signed several commercial agreements.
Yang did not respond to interview requests.
The bloody battles that occurred near Alligator Creek—sometimes referred to as the Battle of the Tenaru or Battle for Hells Point—were part of a major American-led offensive in 1942 to take control of the island and its strategic airfield.
A counter-offensive proved disastrous for Japanese forces, and generations of relatives of the hRead More – Source