Vanuatu Wants Australia To Fund Internet Cable Amid Growing China Fears
By Andrew Greene, ABC and Catherine Graue, Pacific Beat
June 22, 2018
Vanuatu’s Prime Minister is expected to ask Australia to help fund a multi-million-dollar internet cable project when he meets Malcolm Turnbull next week.
Concerns over China’s rising influence in the Pacific remain front of mind for the Federal Government as it prepares to welcome Prime Minister Charlot Salwai for his first official visit to Australia this weekend.
Just last week, the Turnbull Government confirmed it would spend $136 million to build undersea data cables to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, after a Beijing-linked company had been slated to do the work.
Australia stepped in as majority funder of the 4,000-kilometre cable that will link the two Pacific countries with Sydney because of national security concerns sparked by a contract the Solomon Islands Government had originally signed with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
In 2014, Vanuatu completed its first submarine internet cable, linking capital Port Vila to the international fibre optic network in Fiji, and construction has begun on a second cable that will link to the Solomon Islands.
Ahead of this weekend’s visit, Vanuatu’s Infrastructure Minister, Jotham Napat, confirmed his Government would also be asking for Australian assistance for the privately run project.
“There’s a joint meeting that I will be accompanying the Prime Minister and he’s definitely going to raise this with his counterpart,” Mr Napat told the Pacific Beat program.
“The support that the Australian Government is providing to the Solomon Government, they have to do the same for Vanuatu.”
While Australia’s move to block Huawei from the Solomon Islands project was made on regional-engagement and security grounds, it has also had knock-on effects for commercial fibre-optic network builders in the Pacific.