Sydney, Australia, Sep 7 (EFE).- Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta, said his country would not allow a “hostile power” to establish military bases in its territory, in a context of growing fears against China’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific, in statements published Wednesday.
“We have a responsibility to our neighbors, to Australia, to Indonesia, to other countries in Southeast Asia, not to allow Timor Leste to be a base for any hostile power or that our neighbors perceive as potentially hostile,” Ramos-Horta said, in a possible reference to China.
The Timorese president also said his country “should be located in the geography of Australia’s great strategic interests.”
Ramos-Horta is on a tour of Australia to address various issues such as the Wednesday signing in Canberra of a bilateral military cooperation agreement with the country, which includes joint military exercises such as maritime drills.
The statements come as some relief to Australia, the United States, New Zealand and other allied nations that feared China would establish military bases in the strategic Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing has several territorial disputes.
These fears were heightened last April when Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signed a security pact with Beijing, negotiated opaquely and opening the door for Chinese security forces to be dispatched at Honiara’s request.
Despite Sogavare, who changed his alliance with Taiwan in favor of Beijing in 2019, saying on several occasions that the pact does not include the establishment of military bases, this has not allayed the suspicions of his neighbors.
Between the end of May and the beginning of June, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a long tour of several Indo-Pacific countries, including Timor Leste, with whom he signed several bilateral cooperation agreements.
During the travel marathon, the leader of Chinese diplomacy sought to seal a joint pact with ten Pacific island countries, in which Timor is not included, and which did not prosper due to lack of consensus.
So far, the Dili government has avoided taking a direct side in the dispute between the powers and at the same time is open to expanding its relationship with Beijing and strengthening ties with Australia.
Given this scenario, Ramos-Horta SAID at a Wednesday press conference before the Canberra Press Club that “any rational Timorese leader would never do anything without taking into account the sensitivities of his neighbors. That would be my message to my brothers and sisters of the Pacific Islands.” EFE