Vanuatu and China deny holding military base talks

10 April, 2018, 19:56 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Jacinda Ardern says she can't comment on the validity of the reports of a Chinese military base in Vanuatu but New

"First of all it's not going to be a major base to deploy large amounts of troops and it will be sitting out like a shag on a rock a long, long way away from where China deems areas of strategic significance".

"What those countries are looking to us and other nations for is investment in economic infrastructure and social infrastructure".

Jacinda Ardern says she can't comment on the validity of the reports of a Chinese military base in Vanuatu, but New Zealand is opposed to the militarisation of the Pacific.

Fairfax Media understands there are senior figures within China's People's Liberation Army who would like to move quickly to establish a proper base on Vanuatu.

"The government of Vanuatu has said there is no such [Chinese military] proposal".

The Fairfax Media report said the preliminary discussions involved an initial access agreement, under which Chinese naval ships would dock to be serviced, refuelled and restocked, and that would eventually lead to a full military base.

"We have very good relationships with Vanuatu and I remain confident Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice".

Smith noted that Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai had visited China twice since being elected in 2016 but had yet to visit Australia, "partly because of him not being given priority on the Australian side".

China now has just one military base in a foreign country - in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa - but has been increasing its presence in the Pacific.


Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Vanuatu with Prince Charles on Saturday in a diplomatic tour that Fairfax Media has been told was aimed at demonstrating the merits of the Commonwealth's commitment to a free and open system of worldwide rules.

China has also become increasingly active in the South Pacific, undertaking infrastructure projects and providing aid and funding to small, developing island nations.

Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said while China had a thirst for long-term bases and reliable ports, the Indian Ocean was a greater priority.

"It's probably more psychological than it is strategic", Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific co-chair Ralph Cossa told Pacific Beat.

"But in peacetime, it just sort of increases the Chinese shadow into that area". Vanuatu is one of the few countries that steadfastly support Beijing's controversial island-building programme.

The country's opposition leader, Ishmael Kalsakau, said the Government was not properly considering the implications of China's growing involvement in the region.

"We don't know what the consequences are when (Pacific nations) have to pay back some of these Chinese loans", she said.

"When you start talking about the possibilities of military bases ... this is not the stability this country needs."
As the reports of a possible Chinese military base in Vanuatu spread in global media, experts also weighed in on the impact of such a base.

It has always been a large recipient of Australian government aid, but in recent years has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and grants from the Chinese government.

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