Is China eyeing a permanent military base in Vanuatu?

Randolph Lopez
April 10, 2018

China formally established its first worldwide military base in Djibouti in July previous year, in the strategically important Horn of Africa, this was followed several months later by the country's controversial acquisition of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka.

"Chinese presence in Vanuatu, while today about fishing access and commercial trade, tomorrow could represent a threat to Australia's northern approaches", he added.

Several global nations have accused China in recent months of seeking to buy influence in the South Pacific through worldwide aid, stoking fears that Australia's long-time influence in the region is being eroded.

When asked at his daily press briefing, China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the reports were "fake news".

During the spat, Australia's International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said the Pacific was "full of these useless buildings which nobody maintains", built by China.

Asked what the difference between a Chinese and U.S. military base in the Pacific was, he said: "The difference would be China's original stated goal, which was for trade - that was what they wanted [the Belt and Road] for".

"No one in the Vanuatu government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort", he said.

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.

"We have very good relations with Vanuatu and I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice", she said.

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.

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"I believe that this is why we have to step up as a country, and do a whole lot more in the Pacific, we should've been doing it for a long time". "We are not interested in militarization, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country".

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

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.

"We've got to be careful with these things, the Pacific is a very peaceful place, Vanuatu is a country New Zealand has a strong relationship with, I'm sure the Government will want to talk to them about their views before anything goes ahead".

The minister also expressed disappointment over the media coverage standards in Australia.

The Australian media report had claimed that informal discussions were underway between China and Vanuatu regarding a military build-up in the island nation, which would put Australian interests at risk.

"It would allow them to have some forces positioned behind the United States base in Guam and would allow China to monitor and patrol the South Pacific Ocean".

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

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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