TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu on Tuesday denied a media report that China wanted to establish a permanent military presence on the Pacific island nation, easing fears of several regional countries concerned about Beijing’s rising assertiveness.
Australia’s Fairfax Media, citing unnamed sources, earlier on Tuesday reported that preliminary discussions to locate a full military base on Vanuatu had been held.
The prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia has been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington, Fairfax said.
Regenvanu, however, rejected the report.
“No one in the Vanuatu Government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort,” Regenvanu told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“We are a non-aligned country. We are not interested in militarization, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country.”
Fairfax reported that Chinese naval ships would dock to be serviced, refueled and restocked at a Vanuatu port, with the agreement eventually leading to a full military base.
“We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbors of ours,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane.
Vanuatu, around 2,000 km (1,200 miles) east of northern Australia, was home to a key U.S. Navy base during World War Two that helped beat back the Japanese army as it advanced through the Pacific toward Australia.