Australian PM dismisses reports of Chinese military base talks with 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".

President Xi Jinping is reportedly eyeing a base in the Pacific nation where Chinese naval ships would dock to be serviced, refuelled and restocked at a Vanuatu port, with the agreement eventually leading to a full military base.

The Sydney Morning Herald said China had approached the Pacific nation about the possibility.

Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for the Chinese ambassador to Vanuatu said the reports were "ridiculous", while Chinese Foreign Ministry dubbed them as "fake news".

China has also become increasingly active in the South Pacific, undertaking infrastructure projects and providing aid and funding to small, developing island nations.

Fairfax, citing unnamed sources, said no formal proposal had yet been made but the prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia had been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington.

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.

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

If the reports were correct, New Zealand had a number of ways it could raise its concerns, including in bilateral discussions, she said.

"I believe that this is why we have to step up as a country, and do a whole lot more in the Pacific, we should've been doing it for a long time".

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He said foreign investment by other countries in the Pacific was "not necessarily a wrong". "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.

"We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours", Mr Turnbull said.

The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has said she is not aware of any Chinese plans to establish a military base in Vanuatu.

"I'm not very happy about the standard of reporting in the Australia media", Mr Regenvanu said.

Between 2000 and 2012, China offered about 30 major projects to Pacific island countries, including the construction of government official buildings and infrastructure such as highways, bridges and hydropower stations, according to a paper by Professor Yu Chang Sen, of the National Center of Oceania Studies, at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University.

Smith noted that Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai had visited China twice since being elected in 2016 but had yet to visit Australia, "partly because of him not being given priority on the Australian side".

"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 a year ago, referring to China's ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) global development strategy.

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.

"We'd like to know what we're dealing with before we start hypothesising about how we're going to react".

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