Australian defense experts are warning that China’s latest move in the South Pacific is presenting a nightmare for Australia. Since reports of Beijing’s efforts to open a permanent military base in Vanuatu, talks have begun between Vanuatu and Australian authorities.
Vanuatu is situated less than 1,300 miles from Australia’s border, and experts see the Chinese military post as being in “Australia’s backyard” according to Fairfax Media.
Speaking with News.Com.Au, Adam Lockyer, a teacher in Security Studies at Macquarie University, called the development a “massive bane for Australia.”
“A Chinese base has been the concern of Australian diplomatic intellectuals since Federation,” Lockyer added.
Due to its remote geophysical location, Australia has consistently been comparatively secure. That has changed since a global power now has a post within the vicinity.
“Since World War 2 ended, we’ve fought to make sure no other power could interfere with us within the South Pacific region,” Lockyer said.
Julie Bishop has downplayed the fears. She is “confident of our relationship with Vanuatu,” Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Minister said. “I’m not aware of a military outpost being built by China in Vanuatu,” she added.
“I am confident Australia is Vanuatu’s strategic partner,” Bishop told ABC News.
The military outpost isn’t an active attack against Australia. It’s more of a move to counterbalance America’s influence in the region. But it does send a clear message.
Lockyer suggested, “this may serve as retaliation to Australia’s aggressive stance.”
China’s state media has attacked Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Prime Minister, several times for standing against foreign interference and for expressing concerns over China’s territorial moves in the South China Sea.
In April 2018, Beijing accused Australia of becoming anti-Chinese and accused Turnbull of “playing the China card.”
China’s move could be a veiled attempt to intimidate Australia.
“They [China] understood the military outpost would stir us up while making us feel vulnerable,” Lockyer said. “China is saying we know you’re vulnerable and we know what you value. We can hurt you,” Lockyer said quoting Chinese media.
Australia is waiting to see if China will build other bases in the region. “China is setting up a network of close relationships around the world. If the door opens to establish another base, yes. China will take the opportunity,” Lockyer said.
David Tweed and Adrian Leung, writing in Bloomberg said:
In current years China has moved up attempts to dispute the U.S.’s military occupancy in the South China Sea, increasing missiles to prevent American frigates and rehabilitating land to open bases on the contested Spratly Islands. It also began moving subs and warships into the Indian Ocean, inaugurated its initial overseas base in Djibouti and funded ports around the area that could one day be utilized for military missions. That has set off warning bells among several nations in the area, pointing to friendlier security cooperation between the U.S., Australia, India, and Japan. But China says there’s zero to trouble about. It says the post is directed at preventing piracy in a chief Middle East freighting lane for tankers, since the harbors are part of Xi’s Belt-and-Road base push that traverses three continents.
China says it wants affluence for all–not global power.