Updated: 10/04/18 : 09:49:14
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World :: Vanuatu denies reports of plans for Chinese military base

Vanuatu has denied holding talks with Beijing to establish a Chinese military base on its soil.

Australia's Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday that China had approached Vanuatu to establish a permanent military presence in the South Pacific.

The report said China had not made an official proposal, but its possibility had been discussed at "the highest levels" in the US and Australia.

Vanuatu said it was not interested in hosting foreign military bases.

"No-one in the Vanuatu government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort," Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"We are a non-aligned country. We are not interested in militarisation."

The newspaper report has sparked discussion in Australia, which sits 2,000km (1,240 miles) from Vanuatu, about possible efforts by China to exert influence in the South Pacific.

China has not commented on the report. It set up its only overseas military base in Djibouti last year.

Vanuatu, a string of more than 80 islands sitting between Fiji and New Caledonia, has previously backed Beijing's position on the South China Sea.

Home to about 250,000 people, the South Pacific nation has faced challenges including poverty and extreme weather events.

Fairfax Media reported that Beijing had given the nation "hundreds of millions of dollars in development money", and has vowed to build or upgrade three Vanuatu government buildings.