Australian media report China proposes military base in South Pacific

Apr 10, 2018, 19:33
Australian media report China proposes military base in South Pacific

"We have very good relations with Vanuatu and I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice", she said. 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's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16.

It would have significant implications for Australia's defence capabilities and strategy if a military base were to be built, experts say, although they say the plans are likely to be incremental.

Ms Bishop said while China was investing in infrastructure around the world, it had to date only established one military base - in Djibouti in northern Africa.

China reportedly accounts for almost half of Vanuatu's $463 million foreign debt.

"No one in the Vanuatu government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort", he said.

"If it turns out there are one or more Chinese bases. what it has the ability to do is challenge, and make much more challenging, American access into the region", the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Charles Edel, a former adviser to former USA secretary of state John Kerry, as saying.

"We are a non-aligned country. We are not interested in militarization, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country", Regenvanu told the ABC broadcaster. "The government of Vanuatu has said there is no such proposal, but it is a fact that China is engaging in infrastructure investment activities around the world", Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

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, Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday.

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 worldwide Indian Ocean port of Djibouti.

Vanuatu's high commissioner in Canberra, Kalfau Kaloris, was quoted as saying his country's foreign ministry was "not aware" of China's determination to build a permanent presence on the island.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she is confident of Australia's strong relationship with the island nation 1750km east of northern Australia.

A Chinese embassy spokesman said the idea was "ridiculous". Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worry in India that it would become another of China's "string of pearls" military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

"If it turns out there are one or more Chinese bases. what it has the ability to do is challenge, and make much more challenging, American access into the region", said Dr Charles Edel, a former adviser to former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry.

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

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