South Pacific Nation Vanuatu Rejects Reports Of Hosting Chinese Military Base

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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.

"We have very good relationships with Vanuatu and I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice".

In Beijing, China's defense ministry said the claim "completely did not accord with the facts", while a foreign ministry spokesman described it as "fake news".

During the spat, Australia's International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said the Pacific was "full of these useless buildings which nobody maintains", built by China.

The Herald, citing multiple sources, said Beijing's military ambition in Vanuatu would likely be realised incrementally, possibly beginning with an access agreement allowing Chinese naval ships to dock routinely for refuelling.

There are other signs, the report pointed out, that can be interpreted as China gaining prominence in the South Pacific, such as "Taiwanese trade offices closing in the region".

Vanuatu's foreign minister denied there had been any such discussion of a Chinese military base in the country.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Vanuatu with Prince Charles on Saturday in a diplomatic tour that Fairfax Media has been told was aimed at demonstrating the merits of the Commonwealth's commitment to a free and open system of global rules.

Any moves towards a military presence on Vanuatu would have strategic implications of not only Australia and New Zealand, but also the United States, Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Sydney's Lowy Institute, said.

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"We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbors of ours", Turnbull told reporters.

The head of the national security college at the Australian National University, Prof Rory Medcalf, said any foreign power establishing a foothold in the South Pacific would represent "a long-term failure of Australian policy".

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.

While far from key shipping lanes and not as important as Indian Ocean ports, Vanuatu would put China close to the coast of Australia, a major USA ally, and give it a presence nearer the US base of Guam beyond the Asian island chains that hem in Beijing. "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.

National leader Simon Bridges said Vanuatu had to think through any proposals, and work out what they got out of it, before making a decision.

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

The prime minister added that she could not comment on the validity of the report, and her remarks were in response to media reports.

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