PORT VILA, Oct 20, 2020, RNZ. An Australia-funded think-tank focusing on the security concerns of Pacific island nations is to start work in Vanuatu next year. Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said in a statement the Pacific Fusion Centre will host analysts and share information on issues from maritime risks to human trafficking and disinformation, Radio New Zealand reported.
The centre will be based in Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila.
It will also spotlight areas such as illegal fishing, drug smuggling, human trafficking and climate change said Ms Payne.
In preparation, a team of 21 analysts from 14 Pacific Island nations began training in Canberra a year ago.
Minister Payne described it as a reliable source of information for Pacific governments
She listed coronavirus issues, as well as those relating to food and border security and combating disinformation, as being among those on which the analysts advised.
In the statement, Vanuatu foreign minister Marc Ati said, “Vanuatu looks forward to working with Australia to establish the Pacific Fusion Centre, to complement and bolster existing regional security architecture.”
The centre and its location in Vanuatu is part of Australia’s Pacific Step Up strategy of regional engagement launched in 2018, a move largely regarded as a counter to China’s growing influence in the Pacific.