UK to open new diplomatic post in Vanuatu amidst China’s growing presence

As China flexes its muscle in the South Pacific region, the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has announced the opening of 9 new diplomatic posts across the Commonwealth.

The 9 new diplomatic post includes 3 Pacific island states, namely Vanuatu, Samoa, and Tonga.

Vanuatu attracted the interest of world superpowers lately due to allegations that China has proposed the Vanuatu Government, it’s intention of building a military base in Vanuatu.

During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, the Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held discussions on the sidelines and Vanuatu reassured Australia, the allegations are not true.

The announcement of opening the UK Embassy in Vanuatu shortly followed the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London and as the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a press release ‘As a Commonwealth family of nations, it is in our shared interest to boost prosperity, tackle security issues and clear up the environment.’

Mr. Johnson says ‘these new diplomatic posts are in regions which provide huge potential and opportunity post-Brexit for British businesses and will help us to deepen our relationships across the Commonwealth.

‘After we leave the EU, Global Britain will remain outward facing, open for business and a champion of the rules-based international order.’

The interest by the UK to set up an embassy is timely given the political climate of the South Pacific is changing and if the interest of the Commonwealth is to be maintained in the Pacific region, a UK diplomatic post would be the only viable solution.

The setting up of a diplomatic post is being announced a month after the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop accompanied Prince Charles on a visit to Vanuatu.

China has taken a rather different role to the Commonwealth in Vanuatu as it’s aid support is both visible and viable. The Chinese funded Sports development support has seen Vanuatu win a lot of medals in the Pacific Mini Games 2017 and this alone has elevated the status of China in Vanuatu.

Australia’s policy failings in Vanuatu have not encouraged diplomatic relations between Vanuatu and Australia and the need for the UK to set up their own embassy becomes more imminent to ensure the interest of the commonwealth are not overridden by China because of policy fall-outs.

China has built the biggest Chinese Embassy in all the Island States of the Pacific in Vanuatu and has extended its influence with Vanuatu through major infrastructure projects which include Wharves and Airports.

Despite Britain having one of the largest diplomatic footprints in the world, to say it has influence in Vanuatu and other Pacific Island states is an understatement.

The UK’s overseas network is instrumental in promoting its national interest, particularly post-Brexit. The expanded network puts Britain in peak position to enhance military cooperation, boost trade and provide services to the rapidly expanding middle classes of the developing world.

The announcement by the UK to set up more diplomatic post will also booster the UK’s presence in Europe and in all regions of the world as in the Pacific and especially in Vanuatu. its presence is still lurking behind China.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in the press release say’s ‘UK feels an increased global footprint will also ensure that Britain and its allies are able to counter the malign influences of countries who seek to undermine the UK.’

The UK indicated it will also use ‘its world-class soft power to continue to win hearts and minds for the global good’

As a Commonwealth member, it is encouraging for Vanuatu to be included and being recognized as being important enough for the UK to have a diplomatic post set up here is a huge breakthrough, an achievement, as, after the pre-colonial rule, Vanuatu has seen little of the Commonwealth.

Vanuatu will always have a heart for China as Chinese aid is now clearly visible throughout the many Islands of Vanuatu and the many Chinese developments have changed the face of Vanuatu and this alone is a challenge the Commonwealth must now face.

Vanuatu will welcome the new UK Embassy as a member of the commonwealth but again the UK and the Commonwealth need to prove their worth to Vanuatu.

The new diplomatic post as announced by the UK to extend Britain’s global influence includes Lesotho, Swaziland, The Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

 

 

Author

Yumi Toktok Stret

Yumi Toktok Stret reporter. based in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands, PNG, Australia, New Zealand, USA, England, South America, Middle East.

Profile used by various journalist around the region.