China to sign security deals with Kiribati, possibly Vanuatu
China is expanding its sphere of influence in the Pacific, amid rising concerns from AUKUS, by negotiating security deals with two additional islands.
Reports by The Financial Times citing officials say that China is to hold negotiations on potential security deals with Kiribati and possibly Vanuatu.
An intelligence official from a US ally said, "They are in talks with Kiribati and at least one more Pacific island country over an agreement that would cover much of the same ground as that with the Solomon Islands."
China and the Solomon Islands signed in April a framework agreement on security cooperation to boost long-term tranquility and social stability in the Solomon Islands.
Citing a leaked draft deal from March, The Financial Times noted that the agreement could allow China to assign police and military forces to the islands, an accusation that China refuted.
Statements about an alleged desire by China to build a military base on the Solomon Islands under the newly signed security agreement are nothing but disinformation, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
According to a western official, there are concerns that the potential deal with Kiribati would resemble the agreement with the islands. Meanwhile, the foreign affairs secretary of Kiribati denied that his government was discussing a security agreement "with any partner."
On Friday, China agreed to upgrade an international airport in Luganville, as per The Financial Times. There were concerns that China was holding security negotiations with Vanuatu and Tonga, as per a US state department official.
A month ago, China announced that it signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands.
Australia is worried that the pact, whose details have not been made public, could be a step toward a Chinese military presence less than 2,000 km away.
On their part, the US, UK, and Australia had formed their AUKUS alliance amid China's concerns. The alliance was based on enhancing Australia's nuclear capabilities through advanced technology and nuclear submarines in order to increase the alliance's strength in the South Pacific as China grows more influential in the region.