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Vanuatu rejects report of talks on China military base

The Pacific nation of Vanuatu says it is not interested in China establishing a military base there.

Port Vila, VANUATU — Vanuatu says it's not in talks with China on a new military base.

Fairfax Media has reported China approached Vanuatu about building a permanent military presence in the South Pacific.

However, the Pacific nation's foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu told the ABC on Tuesday there had been no preliminary discussions.

"No one in the Vanuatu government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort," he said.

"We are a non-aligned country. We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country."

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

The ability for China to dock warships and refuel on what would be their first Pacific base has rung alarm bells among Australian security chiefs, as well as New Zealand and US officials, who are said to be monitoring the situation, Fairfax says.

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said while China was investing in infrastructure around the world, it had to date only established one military base - in Djibouti in northern Africa.

"I'm not aware of a military offer being made by China to Vanuatu," she said.

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

China had been more engaged with the Pacific recently and its naval ships visited Vanuatu in 2017, but those sorts of visits were normal for all nations to conduct, Ms Bishop said.