Vanuatu and China deny holding military base talks

Vanuatu and China deny holding military base talks

Vanuatu and China deny holding military base talks

Analysts said any move by China to build a military base in Vanuatu, which is less than 2,000 kilometres from Australia, would be in line with its attempts to counter USA power in the region.

China had been more engaged with the Pacific recently and its naval ships visited Vanuatu in 2017, but those sorts of visits were normal for all nations to conduct, Ms Bishop said. 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 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.

Medcalf said a Chinese military base on Vanuatu would pose significant problems for Australian interests. It is China's first overseas naval base, but Beijing describes it as a logistics facility.

But today Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu rejected the report.

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also tried to quell fears of an increased Chinese military presence in a region which has traditionally been under Canberra's sphere of influence.

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.

Australia has underlined its close ties with Vanuatu after a media report said Tuesday that the South Pacific island nation has been approached by China to host a military base.

"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.

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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.

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.

Between 2000 and 2012, China offered about 30 major projects to Pacific island countries, including the construction of government official buildings and infrastructure such as highways, bridges and hydropower stations, according to a paper by Professor Yu Chang Sen, of the National Center of Oceania Studies, at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University.

"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.

Currently, China has only one military base in a foreign country, located in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, but has been increasing its presence in the Pacific, especially in the South China Sea.

"We'd like to know what we're dealing with before we start hypothesising how we would react".

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

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

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