> Tensions over China's rise in Asia came into focus on Tuesday. As Vanuatu denied reports it was preparing to allow Beijing to set up a military base. Australia's Fairfax Media had cited unnamed sources. Saying the South Pacific nation was in preliminary talks with China on establishing a permanent military presence.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the denial from Vanuatu was welcome news.>> We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries, the neighbors of ours.>> China's Defense Ministry also brushed off the reports, calling the story fake news.
Reuters' Greg Torode is following the drama.>> News that's come out in Australia from Fairfax Media that China has been in discussions with Vanuatu. The Pacific Island nation, about building a military base for its use. Has really concentrated the mines and the security field in both Australia and New Zealand.
The reports are unconfirmed, and there is some skepticism about them, but there's enough out there that it certainly is a worry. But there's enough activity in the region at the moment, and enough unease about China's ambitions both within the region and beyond. As it tries to project its naval power and also sustain what it hopes will be a full blue-water navy in the coming decades.
There is a lot of people quite keen to believe this at the moment.>> China has recently become much more active in the region, investing in infrastructure and other aid projects in developing countries.>> Well, China has great economic leverage through aid and development projects. That’s competing with the traditional players, Australia in particular, and also New Zealand.
What’s in it for the Chinese is a little harder to define. China’s getting a very large navy, it has global economic and military interests now. And they've shown a desire to protect its citizens overseas and also to expand its diplomatic and military reach. In short, it needs bases and it lacks bases.
>> China has also faced criticism over its recent activity in the South China Sea. Where it has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with military ports and airstrips.