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China's plans for military base in Vanuatu opposed by NZ Govt

10 April, 2018, 19:58 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Central Port Vila Vanuatu

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corp: "No one in the Vanuatu Government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort".

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.

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. Chen Ke, a spokesman for the ambassador to Vanuatu, also explained that China's presence in the Pacific was purely for humanitarian purposes and also spoke about a planned disaster response exercise between New Zealand, Vanuatu and China.

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.

Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Sydney, described the Hambantota deal - which saw Sri Lanka grant China a 99-year lease on the port to service some of the billions in debt it owes to Beijing - as part of a "bigger picture".

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had earlier acknowledged heightened Chinese interest in the Pacific.

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

"We are a non-aligned country", Regenvanu said in a radio interview Tuesday.

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're not in a war situation or anything near it and yet we have a new aggressive hegemonic power in the region that wants to muscle in and we are in a hard situation because that would normally call on us having a much closer relationship with the United States but that's a nation that now going through the trauma of an erratic and risky president so we have to try and see beyond that and re-establish our links with democratic nations", Professor Hamilton said.

"Ultimately these are discussions between two sovereign nations, but I'm very openly expressing now, and will do so to others privately and publicly, that we take a strong position in the Pacific against militarisation".

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

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

China is also backing an upgrade to the Vanuatu airport.

China now has just one military base in a foreign country - in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa - but has been increasing its presence in the Pacific.

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

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