Concerns as China in talks with Vanuatu about South Pacific military base

Katrina Barker
April 10, 2018

The move could potentially upset the delicate strategic balance in the region.

The Sydney Morning Herald said China had approached the Pacific nation about the possibility.

In Beijing, China's defense ministry said the claim "completely did not accord with the facts", while a foreign ministry spokesman described it as "fake news".

During the speech to the Lowry Institute, Peters said New Zealand was undergoing a Pacific "reset" and asked Australia work alongside it in the region. The Djibouti base features a port, helicopter base, hangars and accommodation for up to 10,000 troops.

"No one in the Vanuatu government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort", he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she is confident of Australia's strong relationship with the island nation 1750km east of northern Australia.

If the reports were correct, New Zealand had a number of ways it could raise its concerns, including in bilateral discussions, she said.

"We are a non-aligned country", Regenvanu said in a radio interview Tuesday.

"We're not in a war situation or anything near it and yet we have a new aggressive hegemonic power in the region that wants to muscle in and we are in a hard situation because that would normally call on us having a much closer relationship with the United States but that's a nation that now going through the trauma of an erratic and risky president so we have to try and see beyond that and re-establish our links with democratic nations", Professor Hamilton said. "We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country".

The ability for China to dock warships and refuel on what would be their first Pacific base has rung alarm bells among Australian security chiefs, as well as New Zealand and U.S. officials, who are said to be monitoring the situation, Fairfax says.

"I'm not very happy about the standard of reporting in the Australia media", Regenvanu added.

National leader Simon Bridges said Vanuatu had to think through any proposals, and work out what they got out of it, before making a decision.

"I would hope the upsurge in the paranoia about China in Australia is not used to destroy or denigrate the good relationship Vanuatu has with Australia".

"Militarisation and competition in the region is not something that is conducive to the sort of stable and prosperous region that we want", Senator Wong told the ABC.

Chinese financial aid in Vanuatu has so far focused on key infrastructure development, including Luganville International Wharf, on the island of Espiritu Santo, a large 300-meter docking facility that can accommodate two mid-sized freighters, or a single large cruise ship at any one time.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Djibouti's President Ismail Omar struck a deal to establish China's first overseas naval base in Africa.

She didn't have more say, as she had only seen media reports, she said.

Vanuatu, about 2,000km (1,200 miles) northeast of Australia, was home to a US Navy base during the second world war that helped beat back the Japanese army as it advanced through the Pacific.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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