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10 April 2018, 06:58 | Bernice Figueroa
Vanuatu Refutes Reports About Talks With China on Hosting Military BaseCC BY 2.0 Phillip Capper Port Vila
Australia and the US have been closely watching China's moves and have conducted high-level talks over the possibility of a Chinese military outpost in such close proximity to Australia, the report said.
But today Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu rejected the report. "The government of Vanuatu has said there is no such [Chinese military] proposal".
Located off the coast of Australia, Vanuatu is strategically placed for a possible military base especially for China as it flanks Japan and the U.S., however, the Foreign Minister of Vanuatu emphasised that it is not interested in any sort of military base. Beijing describes it as a logistics facility.
New Zealand-based security scholar Marc Lanteigne said the Fairfax report, while unconfirmed, was "a wake up call" to Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Beijing has been providing funding for the nation of about 270,000 people for new civic buildings, a wharf and airport upgrades, it said.
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.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had been advised there had been no request from China for Vanuatu to host a base.
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.
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.
China and Vanuatu denied the reports. Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled 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.
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie 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.
"The maintenance of peace and stability in the Pacific is of utmost importance to us", Mr Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.
She didn't have more say, as she had only seen media reports, she said.
During the spat, Australia's International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said the Pacific was "full of these useless buildings which nobody maintains".
Medcalf said China was increasingly seeking to exert influence in the South Pacific.
Dr 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.
"We'd like to know what we're dealing with before we start hypothesising how we would react".
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