China plans to build military base in Vanuatu

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Analysts said any move by China to build a military base in Vanuatu, which is less than 2,000 kilometres from Australia, would be in line with its attempts to counter U.S. power in the region.

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 AUD$36 million (US$27 million).

"So if you have countries that are used to receiving both investment and aid then it's not surprising that they would turn to other places", Dr Sussex said.

The prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia has been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington, Fairfax said. Beijing describes it as a logistics facility.

"I'm not aware of a military offer being made by China to Vanuatu", she told ABC radio on Tuesday, noting the government of Vanuatu had also said there was no such proposal.

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

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

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

Vanuatu's foreign minister has denied Australian media reports that his country is considering hosting a Chinese military base.

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"We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbours of ours", Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull 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.

But he said it was important the Pacific be maintained as a peaceful region.

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 claim has grown in relation to a recent Chinese-funded expansion of the wharf facility on Vanuatu's biggest island of Espiritu Santo being seen as a potential base.

"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 previous year, referring to China's ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) worldwide development strategy.

"Our economy is stagnant, we're just blindly accepting the intervention of countries like China who come in with their generosity but we've got to know what's in store for them at the end of all of this", Mr Kalsakau told Pacific Beat.

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.

Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said while China had a thirst for long-term bases and reliable ports, the Indian Ocean was a greater priority.

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