Wednesday, 25 April, 2018

Vanuatu Refutes Reports About Talks With China on Hosting Military Base

The Australian national flag flies next to the Chinese national flag in front of the giant portrait of former Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing China's plans for military base in Vanuatu opposed by NZ Govt
Lillian Steele | 10 April, 2018, 19:57

Defence experts said a military base on Vanuatu, which would likely be followed by bases elsewhere, would allow the Chinese People's Liberation Army to challenge the US' post-war dominance of the Pacific, which is strongly supported by Australia and New Zealand.

Tonga had also been mentioned in government circles as a possible site for a Chinese base, though recent discussion had centred around the intense efforts China had put into Vanuatu.

"The maintenance of peace and stability in the Pacific is of utmost importance to us", Mr Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Vanuatu and China have both rejected reports that China is seeking to establish a military base in the Pacific nation.

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

If the plan materializes, it will also be a threat to the USA as it would shake-up the country's dominance in the Pacific.

"No-one in the Vanuatu Government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort", he told the ABC's Pacific Beat program.

Beijing last week announced it would pay for and build a new official house for the Vanuatu president, a new Finance Ministry building and an extension on the Foreign Ministry building at a reported total cost of about AUD$36 million (US$27 million).

"New Zealand is opposed to the militarisation of the Pacific", Jacinda Ardern said.

Mr Reganvanu, who has just attended the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Baku, said he was not very happy about the standard of reporting in the Australia media.

This arrangement could then be built on, it added, with intelligence and security figures in Australia, New Zealand and the United States becoming increasingly anxious about China's growing influence.

"And also, frankly speaking, the sovereignty issues of having a foreign country, on their soil, doing that sort of thing", Bridges said.

Chen Ke, a spokesman for the ambassador to Vanuatu, added: " That's impossible.

Is Australia set to join Asean as China's assertiveness grows?

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.

A base less than 2000 kilometres from the Australian coast and 3000km from New Zealand would allow China to project military power into the Pacific Ocean and upend the long-standing strategic balance in the region.

Vanuatu has angrily denied it is in talks with Beijing about a Chinese military base being built in the Pacific country.

"The more you invest in the Belt and Road initiative, the more the Chinese are in a position to force your country to align politically in terms of policy", Davis told CNN a year ago, referring to China's ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) global development strategy.

Whereas previously China's navy was largely defensive and confined to the country's immediate coastal waters, today it boasts significant "blue-water" capabilities, meaning it could operate anywhere in defense of China's interests.

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