The 'suspicious' reasons China might want a Vanuatu military base

11 April, 2018, 04:49 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • HMAS Huon docked at Luganville on Espiritu Santo

New Zealand would strongly oppose any militarisation of the Pacific, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said after media reports China is eyeing a military base in Vanuatu.

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.

Information about this report the Eastern media.

"I'm aware that China is more engaged in the Pacific, Chinese vessels visited Vanuatu a year ago as part of a broader visit to the region, but these sorts of visits are normal for many neighbours around the world", Ms Bishop told RN Breakfast.

Beijing is working on a new generation of rockets created to take its astronauts to the moon and beyond.

China may be seeking a base to train the armies of Pacific nations.

In Beijing, China's defense ministry said the claim "completely did not accord with the facts", while a foreign ministry spokesman described it as "fake news".

Echoing the official's thoughts, Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, told the ABC that Canberra and Port Vila maintained relations by choice and the latter would not prefer to indulge China in such discussions.

"We are a non-aligned country".

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James Kraska, a professor of global law at the US Naval War College, noted on Twitter that a Chinese base in Vanuatu would outflank "not only Australia but also Guam".

He said the facility would have the potential to be turned into a military "intelligence platform" especially due to its vicinity to Australia and New Zealand, both close allies of the United States. "The government of Vanuatu has said there is no such [Chinese military] proposal". Either China expects certain concessions promptly in exchange for massive infrastructure investment, or waits for debtor nations to default on their loans before suggesting creative methods of partial repayment, such as the indebted nation surrendering control over key facilities desired by Beijing. "This will often allow a project to slip through strict scrutiny".

China is also backing an upgrade to the Vanuatu airport.

That has stoked fears that Australia's long-time influence in the region is being eroded.

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According to the Fairfax report, initial talks have already begun with Vanuatu, which could result in China establishing a major military presence and upsetting the delicate strategic balance in the region.

There are other signs that Pacific governments are increasingly beholden to Beijing, such as Taiwanese trade offices closing in the region as local governments bow to pressure from the Chinese government, which insists Taiwan is part of mainland China and should not be recognised even tacitly as an independent government.

"I think there's no question that Australia needs to redouble its efforts to persuade Vanuatu and other Pacific island nations that Australia is and should remain their preferred security partner and development partner".

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