China's plans for military base in Vanuatu opposed by NZ Govt

China's plans for military base in Vanuatu opposed by NZ Govt

China's plans for military base in Vanuatu opposed by NZ Govt

"Chinese presence in Vanuatu, while today about fishing access and commercial trade, tomorrow could represent a threat to Australia's northern approaches".

Any future naval or air base in Vanuatu would "give China a foothold for operations to coerce Australia, outflank the US and its base on USA territory at Guam, and collect intelligence in a regional security crisis", Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, said in a report for the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney.

When asked at his daily press briefing, China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the reports were "fake news".

Australia has always been watching with caution as China deepens its influence on the Pacific Island, undertaking several infrastructure projects and providing aid and financing to small, developing island nations in the region.

The prospect of a Chinese military outpost about 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) off Australia's coast had been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington, Fairfax said.

China and Vanuatu denied the reports.

"I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice", Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Tuesday.

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.

"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".

"We've got to be careful with these things, the Pacific is a very peaceful place, Vanuatu is a country New Zealand has a strong relationship with, I'm sure the Government will want to talk to them about their views before anything goes ahead. We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country", he said.

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

Vanuatu insisted on Tuesday it had no plans to allow China to set up a military base on its territory after a report suggesting Beijing was pushing the proposal sparked concern in Australia and New Zealand.

National leader Simon Bridges said it's not necessarily wrong when other countries invest in others' infrastructure.

In Vanuatu specifically, China has provided $243 million dollars in loans and grants from 2006 to June 2016, according to figures from Sydney's Lowy Institute, a figure that while large, lags behind Australia which provided $400 million during the same ten year period.

China is also backing an upgrade to the Vanuatu airport.

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

Chinese money has already helped finance a new wharf on the north island of Espiritu Santo, alongside an upgrade to the global airport, it was reported.

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.

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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