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Kerry remembers JFK in Solomon Islands

AFP | Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

HONIARA - US Secretary of State John Kerry landed Wednesday in the Solomon Islands where he noted the two nations' close historical ties, including the World War II rescue of future president John F. Kennedy.

Kerry flew into the capital Honiara from Sydney, where he and US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed security issues with ally Australia amid the unfolding crisis in Iraq.

"We have great, great ties with the Solomon Islands as you know," Kerry told reporters in the South Pacific nation which witnessed intense fighting during World War II.

"Just north of here is where President Kennedy served and was rescued (with) the help of Solomon Islanders." A Japanese destroyer sank Kennedy's patrol boat during a night operation in 1943, leaving him injured and stranded on a coral atoll with his crewmen.

The group was eventually rescued after two Solomon Islanders in a canoe came across them and provided them with food and delivered the message that resulted in their rescue.

Kerry's visit comes just days after the death of the last of these rescuers, Eroni Kumana, who died earlier this month aged 93. His companion Buiku Gasa died in 2005.

"We are very, very tied to you in many, many ways and we know how much your islands are currently both working on emerging from a period of difficulty as well as confronting major challenges like climate change," Kerry said.

"And we have very high hopes that the elections coming up will help to put the pieces together for the future," Kerry added, referring to polls expected this year.

The Solomon Islands has endured unrest in recent years. An Australian-led peacekeeping force was sent to the country in 2003 to end five years of civil strife, only finishing its mission in 2013.

Kennedy, who was a naval lieutenant when he was in the Solomons, always kept a coconut from his ordeal as a paperweight on his White House desk.

The future president managed to tow a badly burned crewman behind him during the marathon five-kilometre (three-mile) swim from the boat's wreckage to the atoll, despite having a ruptured spinal disc.

 

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