Vanuatu and China deny holding military base talks
10 April, 2018, 19:57 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16.
No formal proposal for the base has been made, but discussions between the Chinese and Vanuatu governments are taking place, the Sydney Morning Herald Reports.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman dismissed the report as "fake news" and referred reporters to Vanuatu's denial.
China has also become increasingly active in the South Pacific, undertaking several infrastructure projects and providing aid and financing to small, developing island nations in the region.
Asked what the difference between a Chinese and USA military base in the Pacific was, he said: "The difference would be China's original stated objective, which was for trade - that was what they wanted [the Belt and Road] for".
If China were to build a base in the South Pacific, it would be only the second after the recent establishment of a logistics facility in the global Indian Ocean port of Djibouti.
"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.
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had earlier acknowledged heightened Chinese interest in the Pacific.
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.
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.
"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 would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbours of ours", Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane.
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 USA officials, who are said to be monitoring the situation, Fairfax says.
The minister also expressed disappointment over the media coverage standards in Australia. "We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country", he said.
"It would allow them to have some forces positioned behind the U.S. base in Guam and would allow China to monitor and patrol the South Pacific Ocean".
"What those countries are looking to us and other nations for is investment in economic infrastructure and social infrastructure".
China opened its first overseas military base in August in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
"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.
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