China, Vanuatu deny military base plan

10 April, 2018, 19:58 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping

The facility, which would be China's second overseas base, would not only signal a new stage in Beijing's growing military ambition, but also alter the delicate balance of power in the South Pacific.

Peters said there was little tangible evidence to back up the report, and he noted that Vanuatu officials had denied any knowledge of the potential deal in Australian news reports.

The Sydney Morning Herald said China had approached the Pacific nation about the possibility. China's defence ministry said the Fairfax report "completely did not accord with the facts" while a foreign ministry spokesman said the report was "fake news".

China is known to be seeking closer ties with Pacific island nations through development loans and infrastructure funds.

"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". The report, citing unnamed sources, said no formal proposal had yet been made, but preliminary talks have been held about locating a full military base on Vanuatu.

"I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice".

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New Zealand-based security scholar Marc Lanteigne said the Fairfax report, while unconfirmed, was "a wake up call" to Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

According to him, Vanuatu is a non-aligned country and is not interested in militarisation or hosting any sort of military base.

Vanuatu is not in talks with Beijing about hosting a Chinese military base on the territory of the Pacific island nation, Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said on Tuesday.

"There were a number of players doing certain things in the Pacific that are not good for the peace and security, long-term, of the Pacific, or for the growth of democracy itself", Peters said. "We are not interested in militarization, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country".

The minister also expressed disappointment over the media coverage standards in Australia.

"We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours", Mr Turnbull said.

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"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.

Beijing has been providing funding for the nation of about 270,000 people for new civic buildings, a wharf and airport upgrades, it said.

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.

Zack Cooper, a former White House and Pentagon official now at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said he had expected China to establish bases in the Pacific and predicted more to follow.

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 U.S. officials, who are said to be monitoring the situation, Fairfax reports.

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