Published: Tue, April 10, 2018

China proposes military base in South Pacific

China proposes military base in South Pacific

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

Beijing last week announced it would pay for and build a new official house for the Vanuatu president, a new Finance Ministry building and an extension on the Foreign Ministry building at a reported total cost of about $38 million.

Vanuatu said on Tuesday that it has no plans to allow China to set up a military base on its territory.

Cooper said with the United States focused on north Asia, Washington would expect Australia to stop the South Pacific from sliding too deeply into Beijing's hands.

But he has echoed his Prime Minister's statement that New Zealand would be "seriously concerned" about any militarisation of the South Pacific by a superpower.

China established its first overseas base outside the South China Sea last August in Africa's Djibouti.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said if China was trying to establish a military presence on Vanuatu it could be a "game changer" for Australia. The report, citing unnamed sources, said no formal proposal had yet been made, but preliminary talks have been held about locating a full military base on Vanuatu.

According to him, Vanuatu is a non-aligned country and is not interested in militarisation or hosting any sort of military base.

Bishop said Australian engagement with South Pacific nations was "one of our highest foreign policy priorities" and that Australia had partnered with China on development projects in the region, for example an anti-malaria project in Papua New Guinea. "We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country", he said.


"That will be between those two sovereign nations and I can't comment on the validity of that".

Beijing responded that it "fully respects the will of the Pacific islands' governments and their people" and that development aid "has brought real benefits to local people".

If China were to build a base in the South Pacific, it would be only the second after the recent establishment of a logistics facility in the global Indian Ocean port of Djibouti. As the reports of a possible Chinese military base in Vanuatu spread in global media, experts also weighed in on the impact of such a base.

Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled concerns in India that it will become another of China's "string of pearls" military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

"I don't think China would be doing this specifically or exclusively to harm Australian interests, but there would be harm to Australian interests as a major side-effect of this presence", he said.

China has already projected its military strength into the sea by building military capacity on a number of reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea, prompting condemnation from the worldwide community, including Australia.

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

"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.

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