No plans for Chinese military base, says Vanuatu

Aaron Brown
April 10, 2018

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.

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 $38 million.

Vanuatu is located about 1,200 miles from Australia.

Chinese money has already helped finance a new wharf on the north island of Espiritu Santo, alongside an upgrade to the global airport, it was reported.

Ms Bishop said while China was investing in infrastructure around the world, in had to date only established one military base - in Djibouti in northern Africa.

"No one in the Vanuatu Government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort..."

"We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbors of ours", Turnbull told reporters. "We are not interested in militarization, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country".

Australia will give Vanuatu A$69.8 million ($54 million) in aid in 2017-18, and provides the nation "with the majority of its tourists, foreign direct investment and aid", according to the Australian government.

"Ultimately these are discussions between two sovereign nations, but I'm very openly expressing now, and will do so to others privately and publicly, that we take a strong position in the Pacific against militarisation".

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China and Vanuatu denied the reports.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had been advised there had been no request from China for Vanuatu to host a base.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Vanuatu with Prince Charles on Saturday in a diplomatic tour that it's understood was aimed at demonstrating the merits of the Commonwealth's commitment to a free and open system of global rules.

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

The islands of Vanuatu may appear as relative specks in the South Pacific Ocean, but for China's military strategists, they could provide a significant boost in Beijing's ability to project naval power.

Chinese activities in the Pacific have been increasingly viewed through a military lens since the U.S. "pivot" to the region in 2009.

Fairfax, citing unnamed sources, said no formal proposal had yet been made but the prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia had been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington.

"I'm aware that China is more engaged in the Pacific, Chinese vessels visited Vanuatu past year as part of a broader visit to the region, but these sorts of visits are normal for many neighbours around the world", Ms Bishop told RN Breakfast.

"I think this is much more about China's long-term ambitions than some sort of short-term reaction to anything the USA has done", he said.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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