While China is already said to be in talks with Pakistan to acquire the latter's military base near the Chabahar port in Iran, it looks like Beijing also wants to spread its wings in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
Fairfax Media has reported that China is planning to build a permanent military base in Vanuatu and the two nations are already discussing the possibility of a military buildup in the region. The report added that no formal proposal has been made yet, but the idea has been discussed between the two nations.
The plan has also caught Australia's eye as a military base in Vanuatu would mean Chinese army deployed less than 2,000 kilometers away from the Australian coast. The plan hasn't really gone down well with Australia and has been discussed with Washington as well.
If the plan materializes, it will also be a threat to the US as it would shake-up the country's dominance in the Pacific.
"If it turns out there are one or more Chinese bases ... what it has the ability to do is challenge, and make much more challenging, American access into the region," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Charles Edel, a former adviser to former US secretary of state John Kerry, as saying.
"Chinese presence in Vanuatu, while today about fishing access and commercial trade, tomorrow could represent a threat to Australia's northern approaches," he added.
However, a senior official of the Vanuatu government said that such discussions have never taken place and China isn't planning to build a military base in the island nation. "That conversation was never on the table," the Guardian quoted the advisor as saying.
Echoing the official's thoughts, Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, told the ABC that Canberra and Port Vila maintained relations by choice and the latter would not prefer to indulge China in such discussions.
"It is a fact that China is engaging in developing infrastructure and investment activity in places around the world, but to date, there is only one military base that China has built, and that's [in] Djibouti in northern Africa," she said.
"We must remember that Vanuatu is a sovereign nation and its foreign and defense relations are a matter for Vanuatu."
The report has also been refuted by Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, who said that the nation doesn't want the Pacific to see any kind of militarization.
Meanwhile, China too had denied the reports and said it was "impossible" to build a base in Vanuatu. A Chinese embassy spokesman even called the idea "ridiculous." Chen Ke, a spokesman for the ambassador to Vanuatu, also explained that China's presence in the Pacific was purely for humanitarian purposes and also spoke about a planned disaster response exercise between New Zealand, Vanuatu and China.