Australia must step up if China starts military build up in Vanuatu


Australia Affirms Vanuatu Ties Amid Report of Chinese Base

Australia must keep a close eye on what is developed in Vanuatu and consider if current military structures are suited to responding to the challenge, Dr Davis 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.

The Lowy Institute's Pacific islands expert, Jonathan Pryke, says the new Luganville wharf development had "raised eyebrows in defence, intelligence and diplomatic circles" in Australia.

"People who look across the Pacific will look from a geostrategic point of view and obviously take notice of this very bold statement of ambition, if it is true, that the Chinese navy is now seeking to acquire some sort of presence", he said.

Fairfax reported there had been informal discussions between China and Vanuatu, but no formal offer, about a military buildup. We are not interested in militarization, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country, "Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu told ABC".

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

The statement came after a report suggested that Beijing was pushing the proposal, sparking concern in Australia and New Zealand.

Australia and New Zealand warned China on Tuesday against building any military base in the South Pacific, following media reports that the Chinese have proposed a permanent stronghold in Vanuatu.

"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.

McClay said the United States had military research bases in the Pacific, which had been there since World War II, but no-one would want to see more countries moving military bases, or weapons, into the Pacific.

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

"What those countries are looking to us and other nations for is investment in economic infrastructure and social infrastructure".

"I would hope the upsurge in the paranoia about China in Australia is not used to destroy or denigrate the good relationship Vanuatu has with Australia".

One of the most substantial projects funded by Chinese money is a major new wharf on the north island of Espiritu Santo.

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

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Zack Cooper, a former White House and Pentagon official now at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said he had expected China to establish bases in the Pacific and predicted more to follow.

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