New Vanuatu leader questions Australia security pact ratification

Sydney, Australia, Sep 5 (EFE).- New Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman said Tuesday that he finds it difficult for his country’s parliament to ratify the security pact with Australia and called on a revision of the agreement to respond to the country’s best interests.

So, my view would be to revisit the agreement with both sides, the Australians, and the Vanuatu government, and see if there’s any sticking points and then address that,” Kilman said in statements to Australian public broadcaster ABC.

Kilman, considered a strong ally of China, assumed power Monday after beating Ishmael Kalsakau, a politician described as pro-Western, in a vote in parliament elected in November 2022 after early elections.

The shift in power comes as the United States and its Western partners seek to join forces in the Pacific to counter China’s influence and after Kalsakau faced a vote of no confidence last month.

The motion was resolved Monday in court after being filed by the opposition due to its dissatisfaction with various issues, including the security pact with Australia.

Opponents of this treaty said the agreement, signed in December 2022 between the two countries and pending ratification, undermined the independence and sovereignty of Vanuatu, as well as the position of neutrality of the island country.

“We are not pro-Western and we are not pro-Chinese. We have a non-aligned policy,” Kilman told ABC on Tuesday.

The Vanatuan president also said his country is in a “very dynamic geopolitical scenario,” in which each government must defend “the best interest” of their respective countries in the disputed Pacific region.

Vanuatu, a country where China has built important infrastructures, such as the Port Vila Parliament, as a result of the strong alliances they have maintained since the 1990s, is in the midst of the firm fight between Beijing and Washington in the strategic area.

The Pacific regained its strategic importance, especially after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands in April 2022 and, the following year, a police cooperation pact, which includes sending its security forces if requested.

This alliance between Beijing and Honiara led Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States to draw closer to the islands, which have also signed pacts with countries such as Papua New Guinea, also pending ratification. EFE


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