Published: Tue, April 10, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

China eyes Vanuatu military base in plan with global ramifications

China eyes Vanuatu military base in plan with global ramifications

"No one in the Vanuatu government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort", Regenvanu told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Australia must keep a close eye on what is developed in Vanuatu and consider if current military structures are suited to responding to the challenge, Dr Davis said.

Any future naval or airbase in Vanuatu would "give China a foothold for operations to coerce Australia, outflank the United States and its base on U.S. territory at Guam, and collect intelligence in a regional security crisis", Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, said in a report for the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney.

The Lowy Institute's Pacific islands expert, Jonathan Pryke, says the new Luganville wharf development had "raised eyebrows in defence, intelligence and diplomatic circles" in Australia.

Multiple sources said Beijing's military ambition in Vanuatu would likely be realised incrementally, possibly beginning with an access agreement that would allow Chinese naval ships to dock routinely and be serviced, refuelled and restocked.

"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".

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she is confident of Australia's strong relationship with the island nation 1750km east of northern Australia.

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The statement came after a report suggested that Beijing was pushing the proposal, sparking concern in Australia and New Zealand.

McClay said the USA had military research bases in the Pacific, which had been there since World War II, but no-one would want to see more countries moving military bases, or weapons, into the Pacific.

"We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries", Turnbull told reporters on Tuesday.

He said foreign investment by other countries in the Pacific was "not necessarily a wrong".

While far from key shipping lanes and not as important as Indian Ocean ports, Vanuatu would put China close to the coast of Australia, a major USA ally, and give it a presence nearer the US base of Guam beyond the Asian island chains that hem in Beijing.

National leader Simon Bridges said it's not necessarily wrong when other countries invest in others' infrastructure.

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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.

Academic director at Australian National University's National Security College Matthew Sussex said that while it wasn't surprising that China would have an interest in Vanuatu, the threat shouldn't be overstated.

He also told the ABC on Tuesday there had been no preliminary discussions with China.

The prime minister added that she could not comment on the validity of the report, and her remarks were in response to media reports.

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

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