As the Pacific nation of Vanuatu plunges into a political crisis, China has reacted by rushing its so-called ‘police experts’ into the country.

China’s move comes hot the heels of a Supreme Court’s ruling that observed that the pro-West prime minister of Vanuatu has lost a no-confidence vote in the parliament.

According to the ruling, Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau will have to step down on Monday (28 August). If there is no appeal, or it is rejected, parliament would vote for a new prime minister.

It must be noted that opposition leader Bob Loughman, who is considered pro-China, brought the no-confidence motion against PM Kalsakau last week. He lodged the petition reprimanding the government for entering into a security pact with Australia.

The motion garnered 26 votes in the 52-seat Parliament, failing to secure the absolute majority of 27. However, only 23 members voted against the motion. One lawmaker failed to show up due to illness, while one seat is vacant.

However, the parliament speaker ruled that the government had successfully defeated the motion.

The opposition took the matter to the country’s Supreme Court, which ruled Friday against the government, noting that an absolute majority in a parliament with 51 members was 26.

Loughman, during his tenure as the previous prime minister, brought Vanuatu closer to China. However, his administration faced a setback when Loughman lost the national election in 2022.

The ongoing political crisis emerged when he criticised the security agreement with Australia, stating that it undermines Vanuatu’s “neutral” position and could potentially put in danger development aid from China.

Kalsakau dismissed these claims as baseless. He pointed out the significant visits by Western leaders to Vanuatu, such as French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit in July, which occurred during his eight months as the leader. Macron’s speech cautioned against a “new imperialism” in the Pacific, a reference many took as aimed at China.

Vanuatu finds itself at the epicentre of a strategic rivalry between China and Western nations in the Pacific Islands. China has played a substantial role as an infrastructure financier for Vanuatu.

Amidst China’s security agreement with the Solomon Islands, the United States and its allies are actively discouraging Pacific Island nations from establishing security connections with Beijing.