No place for China base in Pacific: PM

While far from key shipping lanes and not as important as Indian Ocean ports, Vanuatu would put China close to the coast of Australia, a major USA ally, and give it a presence nearer the US base of Guam beyond the Asian island chains that hem in Beijing.

Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for the Chinese ambassador to Vanuatu said the reports were "ridiculous", while Chinese Foreign Ministry dubbed them as "fake news".

The minister also expressed disappointment over the media coverage standards in Australia.

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

While China has been investing in infrastructure around the world, to date it has only established one military base - in Djibouti in northern Africa.

"We are a non-aligned country", Regenvanu said in a radio interview Tuesday. "We are not interested in militarization, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country", Regenvanu told the ABC broadcaster.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported this morning that China had approached Vanuatu about a permanent military base in the country, about 3000km from New Zealand.

Peters said there was little tangible evidence to back up the report, and he noted that Vanuatu officials had denied any knowledge of the potential deal in Australian news reports.

However, a senior official of the Vanuatu government said that such discussions have never taken place and China isn't planning to build a military base in the island nation.

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China has also become increasingly active in the South Pacific, undertaking infrastructure projects and providing aid and funding to small, developing island nations.

"We have very good relations with Vanuatu and I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice", Bishop added.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane: "We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbours of ours".

While, New Zealand's PM Jacinda Ardern said: "New Zealand is opposed to the militarisation of the Pacific".

"It would allow them to have some forces positioned behind the U.S. base in Guam and would allow China to monitor and patrol the South Pacific Ocean".

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she is confident of Australia's strong relationship with the island nation 1750km east of northern Australia.

Fairfax, citing unnamed sources, said no formal proposal had yet been made but the prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia had been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington. Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worry in India that it would become another of China's "string of pearls" military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The Lowy Institute said China had contributed more than $2.3 billion in aid to the Pacific since 2006.

  • Sonia Alvarado