New Vanuatu PM to 'rethink' Australian security pact

Vanuatu's new prime minister says the Pacific island nation will likely need to rework a security agreement signed with Australia. 

Less than a day into his tenure, Sato Kilman said the parliament was unlikely to ratify the agreement with questions raised about it being in Vanuatu's best interests. 

"What I've heard is that it may be difficult to get ratification from parliament, so my view would be to revisit the agreement with both sides," he told the ABC.

He hit back at reports about his political alignments as Western nations grapple with Beijing for influence in the Pacific. 

"We are not pro-West, we are not pro-Chinese, we adopt a non-aligned policy," Mr Kilman said.

The agreement has been signed but needs to be ratified by Vanuatu's parliament. 

It spans co-operation in areas including disaster relief, environmental and resource security, cyber security, aviation safety and law enforcement.

A spokesman for Australia's foreign affairs department said the two nations shared "a deep security partnership developed through decades of practical co-operation".

"We will continue to work with Vanuatu to deliver mutual benefits and ensure our shared security," the spokesman said. 

He said Australia "respects Vanuatu’s sovereign decision-making processes" and the department looked forward to discussions about co-operation and addressing Vanuatu's concerns.

Mr Kilman took over the prime ministership on Monday after Ishmael Kalsakau was removed by a vote of no-confidence.

Mr Kalsakau visited Australia in February to discuss trade and security with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in what was the first visit of Vanuatu's sitting prime minister since 2018.

Concerns have previously been raised about a possible Chinese push for a naval base in Vanuatu.

China has denied it is seeking a military presence in the Pacific. 

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