Senior levels of Australia’s defense force are reportedly aware of China’s desire to increase its military presence in the South Pacific via the island nation of Vanuatu.
China “has certainly expressed interest” in upping its military presence on Vanuatu, an 80-island archipelago 1,750km (1090 miles) east off the Australian coast, a senior defense official told 9News. It’s unknown how far along those talks are or the extent of China’s potential presence.
Fairfax Media recently reported there had been discussions about about converting a Chinese-funded wharf in Vanuatu into a potential Chinese navy base. But senior officials from Vanuatu, China, and Australia publicly denied the reports.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull even received an assurance from Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Charlot Salwai that he wouldn’t allow the wharf to become a military base.