By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 16 APRIL 2018: The move by the Peoples Republic of China to set up a military base in Vanuatu has been criticized by several countries in the Pacific region and is certainly an issue for the Forum Leaders when it meets later this year.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Adern strongly opposes what she terms “militarization of the Pacific.”
However, the Forum Leaders outgoing Chair, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi said it is the prerogative of the Government of Vanuatu to accept or deny China’s intention.
“China’s military presence in Vanuatu is just the same as that of America is in Guam, and when Russia supplied weapons to Fiji,” Tuilaepa told Talamua.
He said it is the prerogative of any country to enter into an agreement with another, and that it is difficult for any Government to interfere in another country’s politics.
He believes if New Zealand and Australia do not approve of such action, then they can discontinue their aid rendered to Vanuatu.
Tuilaepa said the issue will certainly be raised at the PIF meeting either by concerned Pacific Island governments.
He said unless the issue raises threats to any of the countries, then those countries can stand up against it.
“China and America’s military presence in the Pacific pose no threat to us (Samoa) but North Korea does,” said Tuilaepa.
North Koreas nuclear threat to the Pacific was the reason for a joint statement from all Pacific leaders to ban North Korean boats fishing in the Pacific seas.
Tuilaepa is not sure if China was serious about its military base in Vanuatu, but if it poses a threat, then other Pacific countries can raise it at the upcoming Pacific Forum Leaders meeting.