Tue, Jun 26, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Australia, Vanuatu eye security treaty

AGAINST CHINA:Negotiations would include disaster response, maritime surveillance and border security, police and defense cooperation, the Australian prime minister said

AP, CANBERRA

Australia yesterday said it would negotiate a security treaty with Vanuatu, weeks after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned China against building a military base in the South Pacific nation.

Turnbull announced the negotiations during a visit to Parliament House by Vanuatuan Prime Minister Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas.

“We agreed to commence negotiations on a bilateral security treaty on common security interests, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime surveillance and border security, police and defense cooperation,” Turnbull said in a statement.

Turnbull said that he and Salwai had reinforced their commitment to a deep and enduring economic and security partnership.

A Vanuatuan government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, China and Vanuatu denied media reports that the Chinese had approached the former joint British-French colony, which has a population of 280,000, about building a permanent military presence in the South Pacific.

Turnbull said at the time that Australia “would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific island countries and neighbors of ours.”

New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern has said that her nation takes “a strong position in the Pacific against militarization.”

Vanuatuan Minister of Public Utilities and Infrastructure Jotham Napat last week told Australian Broadcasting Corp that Salwai would use his Australian visit to ask Turnbull for Australia to help pay for a high-speed telecommunications cable from Sydney to Vanuatu.

The request follows the Australian government’s announcement last week that it would pay most of the A$137 million (US$102 million) price tag for such an undersea cable to South Pacific neighbors Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Australia stepped into that project after the Solomon Islander government signed a contract with Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co (華為) last year to build a cable to the Sydney broadband hub.

The Solomon Islands consequently scrapped the Huawei deal.

Huawei has been flagged by US intelligence officials as a national security threat because of its links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Australia has barred Huawei on security grounds from bidding for contracts in a national broadband network rolled out nationwide.

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