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No plans for Chinese military base, says Vanuatu

No plans for Chinese military base, says Vanuatu

A base less than 2000 kilometres from the Australian coast and 3000km from New Zealand would allow China to project military power into the Pacific Ocean and upend the long-standing strategic balance in the region.

Beijing has been providing funding for the nation of about 270,000 people for new civic buildings, a wharf and airport upgrades, it said.

However, Mr Regenvanu told the ABC the reports were false, and that no one in the government had ever talked about a Chinese base of any sort in Vanuatu.

"We are a non-aligned country", Regenvanu said in a radio interview Tuesday.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Vanuatu also assured his government that "no such request has been made" by China.

"We have very good relations with Vanuatu and I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice", she said. "We are not interested in militarization, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country".

Vanuatu, about 2,000km (1,200 miles) northeast of Australia, was home to a US Navy base during the second world war that helped beat back the Japanese army as it advanced through the Pacific.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the reports had not yet been confirmed, and she could not discuss the details of any official briefings.

"The maintenance of peace and stability in the Pacific is of utmost importance to us", Mr Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane.

As the reports of a possible Chinese military base in Vanuatu spread in worldwide media, experts also weighed in on the impact of such a base.

Chinese activities in the Pacific have been increasingly viewed through a military lens since the USA "pivot" to the region in 2009.

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.

Australia and New Zealand both said they were monitoring developments.

Jonathan Pryke, a Pacific islands expert with the Lowy Institute, said the Luganville wharf had "raised eyebrows in defence, intelligence and diplomatic circles" in Canberra because while its stated goal is to host cruise ships, it had the potential to service naval vessels as well.

Several global nations have accused China in recent months of seeking to buy influence in the South Pacific through worldwide aid, stoking fears that Australia's long-time influence in the region is being eroded.

China has diplomatic relationships with eight Pacific island nations - the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

Ms Bishop said while China was investing in infrastructure around the world, in had to date only established one military base - in Djibouti in northern Africa. Bateman said reports of the military buildup could potentially be Chinese posturing ahead of that vote.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges said the reports of a base still appeared to be "speculative".

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