Vanuatu will put to its parliament a security treaty with Australia before the end of 2023, after concerns over China in the region led to neighbouring Papua New Guinea delaying signing another such treaty.
During a visit by Defence Minister Richard Marles on Tuesday, Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau said a security treaty signed with Australia in December 2022 was still being examined.
Vanuatu’s National Security Council was “going through the text” and it would next be considered by his government’s Council of Ministers, Kalsakau said in Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila.
“It will be presented for ratification before the end of this year in Parliament,” he said.
On Tuesday, Marles said Australia was happy with the progress being made on the Vanuatu security agreement and that it was “a profoundly important principle” that “the Pacific’s security has to come from the Pacific family itself”.
The security arrangement was expected to include military, policing and cyber security co-operation.
Some Vanuatu politicians who favour ties with China have expressed concern over the deal.
Papua New Guinea said a proposed security treaty with Australia would be delayed as it considers the impact on its sovereignty.
PNG Prime Minister James Marape told parliament on Tuesday an upgraded Australian security treaty was “a work in progress”.
Last month, PNG signed a defence cooperation agreement with the United States, which prompted some domestic political backlash, amid concerns it could embroil PNG in strategic competition between the U.S and China.
Pacific Islands nations are being courted by China, a major infrastructure lender that struck a security pact with Solomon Islands last year, and the United States, which has committed to re-opening embassies closed since the Cold War.
Washington and its allies have raised concerns about Beijing’s naval ambitions in a region occupying vital sea lanes, that played a pivotal role in World War II.
SOURCE: ABC PACIFIC/PACNEWS