PRIME Minister Charlot Salwai has put out a statement to ‘utterly refute’ claims by Fairfax Media that the Vanuatu government has been approached by the Chinese government to set up a military base in Vanuatu.
He also refuted that preliminary discussions had been held between the two governments to that end.
“The article and the timing of its release are rather speculative and seemingly malicious in intent,” he said.
“Vanuatu’s relationship with China is premised on the principle of mutual respect of each other’s political independence, peaceful coexistence, territorial integrity and sovereignty, and with a strong developmental component.”
The PM’s statement said specific references to infrastructure projects such as the new wharf and the airport extension in Santo are ‘somewhat speculative and erratic’.
He said such projects undertaken by China have all been ‘at the behest of the Vanuatu Government and people as direct beneficiaries and have not been imposed by China’.
“Furthermore, the Vanuatu Government greatly values its relationship with the government of China as an important development partner, friend and global leader for the benefit of our people in term (sic) of employment and economic development,” he said.
“The government will fiercely oppose any attempt to build a military base in the country that is the Happiest Place in the World and which is a direct affront of its policy to promote peace and security in the region.”
The PM’s statement goes on to say the government’s concern on security is more about strengthening the capacity of the Vanuatu Police Force, the control of its borders and the effects of climate change and natural disasters affecting the land and the livelihood of its people now and in the future.
“The Vanuatu Government also trusts the custom and community system existing in all our islands which is paramount to maintain the peace, security and order in the whole country,’’ he said.
“The government wants to reassure its development partners that it is satisfied with the current level of bilateral relationships and it is not in our interest to jeopardise these partnerships.”
He said it was ‘rather unfortunate’ that Fairfax Media chose to run with their story ‘in spite of being informed to the contrary by the Vanuatu government, via its diplomatic missions abroad and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’.