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China eyes Vanuatu military base in plan with global ramifications

10 April 2018

Located off the coast of Australia, Vanuatu is strategically placed for a possible military base especially for China as it flanks Japan and the USA, however, the Foreign Minister of Vanuatu emphasised that it is not interested in any sort of military base.

Australia and the USA have been closely watching China's moves and have conducted high-level talks over the possibility of a Chinese military outpost in such close proximity to Australia, the report said.

Australia has always been watching with caution as China deepens its influence on the Pacific Island, undertaking several infrastructure projects and providing aid and financing to small, developing island nations in the region.

A Chinese embassy spokesman said the idea was "ridiculous".

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane: "We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbours of ours".

Vanuatu's Emae Island before Cyclone Pam

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.

"I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice".

Any moves towards a military presence on Vanuatu would have strategic implications of not only Australia and New Zealand, but also the United States, Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Sydney's Lowy Institute, said.

"We are a non-aligned country".

A Chinese military base so close to the Australian coast and just 3,000km from New Zealand would allow China to project military power in the Pacific Ocean, potentially increasing the risk of confrontation between the U.S. and Chinese forces.

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Ms Ardern on Tuesday couldn't confirm the reports, but told reporters "we take a strong position in the Pacific against militarisation".

But he said it was important the Pacific be maintained as a peaceful region.

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

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.

Beijing has been providing funding for the nation of about 270,000 people for new civic buildings, a wharf and airport upgrades, it said.

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"The more you invest in the Belt and Road initiative, the more the Chinese are in a position to force your country to align politically in terms of policy", Davis told CNN previous year, referring to China's ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) worldwide development strategy.

"It is a fact that China is engaging in developing infrastructure and investment activity in places around the world, but to date, there is only one military base that China has built, and that's [in] Djibouti in northern Africa", she said.

"Our economy is stagnant, we're just blindly accepting the intervention of countries like China who come in with their generosity but we've got to know what's in store for them at the end of all of this", Mr Kalsakau told Pacific Beat.

She didn't have more say, as she had only seen media reports, she said.

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China eyes Vanuatu military base in plan with global ramifications