10 Apr 2018

Speculation in Canberra at China's plan for Vanuatu wharf

3:45 pm on 10 April 2018

A Pacific analyst says there is still a large degree of speculation in Canberra over reports that China wants a naval base in Vanuatu.

HMAS Huon docked at Luganville on Espiritu Santo.

HMAS Huon docked at Luganville on Espiritu Santo. Photo: RNZ/Koroi Hawkins

Australian media reports, based on information from within the Australian Government, suggest China has been in discussions with the Vanuatu Government on using the huge new wharf at Luganville as a military base.

The 360-metre long wharf was built by a Chinese company and paid for with a soft $US54 million loan from China.

The director of the Lowy Institute's Pacific programme, Jonathan Pryke, said it was built with the stated intention of attracting more and bigger cruise ships.

"There were questions from the outset 'was this much investment needed' but there is the counter argument that well once you build it people with come. We are trying to put the assets in there so we can develop more tourism potential for that island. So there is definitely an economic imperative for having this wharf.

"Should it have been this big, it is very hard for me to say. But certainly from the intelligence side of things, or the security side of things, when you look at this you look at it as being a potential military asset."