China plans to build military base in Vanuatu

China plans to build military base in Vanuatu

China plans to build military base in Vanuatu

China formally established its first global military base in Djibouti in July a year ago, 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.

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. The report was later denied by Vanuatu's foreign minister, while China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang described it as "fake news".

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.

"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".

However, Mr Regenvanu told the ABC the reports were false, and that no one in the government had ever talked about a Chinese base of any sort in Vanuatu.

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

Both Western and Asian military attaches say a broad network of bases and friendly ports will be vital if China is to meet its ambitions of becoming a blue water navy, mirroring the kind of established reach long enjoyed by the USA and its allies.

Initial reports by Australia's Firefax media citing "unnamed" sources regarding China planning to set up a military base in the small South Pacific nation of Vanuatu have been strongly rejected by both Vanuatu and China on Tuesday.

If the plan materializes, it will also be a threat to the United States as it would shake-up the country's dominance in the Pacific.

"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. "We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country".

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

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

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.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the reports had not yet been confirmed, and she could not discuss the details of any official briefings.

"If you put it on a scale of who's respected the most, we'd be right up there, we've gotta do more to maintain that respect, and build even greater respect in the Pacific".

Fairfax said Chinese naval ships would dock to be serviced, refuelled and restocked at a Vanuatu port, with the agreement eventually leading to a full military base.

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