Is there any basis to all this base talk? On the Australian side, everyone from the prime minister down expresses “great concern” about a Chinese military installation in Vanuatu. Vanuatu’s foreign minister is “not very happy about the standard of reporting in the Australian media.” And the government of the People’s Republic of China, when it chooses to comment, goes with “ridiculous” and, inevitably, charges of “fake news.”
Yet the reports seem to be based on something. Fairfax journalist David Wroe is well respected, and judging by the fact that his sources are notably reticent and he attended a Lowy Institute security workshop just last week, it could be based on information from intelligence agencies.
Plausible deniability is built into the story. Wroe argues that a dual-use facility will be developed incrementally around the Luganville Wharf on Santo Island. He isn’t claiming that we will see it immediately transformed into a base for troops ready to protect China’s interests in Vanuatu. And those interests — beyond fishing, possible future seabed mining, and a handful of business migrants with whom the Chinese party-state has a troubled relationship — are negligible.
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