Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that she is opposed to militarisation in the Pacific when asked about a potential Chinese base in Vanuatu.
The remarks were made on Tuesday morning in response to a Sydney Morning Herald article that revealed that China has begun talks with Vanuatu to build a military base in the country.
“We take a strong position in the Pacific against militarisation,” Ardern said.
The Sydney Morning Heral* reported the two parties were in discussions, but no formal proposal had been made. Security experts believe the talks could culminate in a full base.
She had not been officially briefed or received conformation from either China or Vanuatu and was commenting only on what had been reported in the media.
“It is however is an issue that has been reported on, it is between two sovereign nations, it is a matter for them,” she said.
Initial talks have already begun between China and Vanuatu
China’s growing power in the South Pacific has raised eyebrows, but until now the country’s actions have been largely confined to soft power, namely concessionary loans for development and infrastructure projects.
Chinese investment has helped finance a new wharf and an upgrade to the international airport in Vanuatu.
Asia security expert Zack Cooper recently spoke to Newsroom Pro about Chinese investment in the Pacific and the shifting security situation here.