Vanuatu’s government has acknowledged the concerns of Australia and New Zealand when it comes to security in the region after its recently elected prime minister has gone back to the drawing board on a treaty.

A day after he was elected in September last year, Prime Minister Sato Kilman flagged he would revisit a security agreement with Australia that spanned co-operation in areas including disaster relief, security and law enforcement.

Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Matai Seremaiah was hosted by Foreign Minister Penny Wong in Canberra on Tuesday.

Seremaiah acknowledged concerns about the uncertainty of the security pact.

Ongoing dialogue was important to avoid future misunderstandings, he said.

“We understand the concerns of Australia and New Zealand in the security space,” he said in his opening remarks.

“And we appreciate also Australia appreciating that we also want to protect our sovereignty as well.”

The deputy prime minister also thanked Australia for its help at the World Trade Organisation as well as security and disaster responses.

“At the WTO we see the benefit of the relationship with Australia, for us small economies in trade negotiations, and other negotiations, we find ourselves not able to be on par with them,” he said.

“Australia demonstrated we can depend on you.”

Vanuatu could always count on Australia as the two had an enduring relationship, Senator Wong said in her opening remarks.

“We have shared values, we have shared interests in a region that’s peaceful and prosperous,” she said.

Seremaiah also met with Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles on Tuesday.

The Australia-Vanuatu Bilateral Security Agreement was initially signed in December 2022.