Australia promised on June 25 to bolster the cybersecurity capabilities of Vanuatu as it agreed to begin negotiating a security treaty with its Pacific neighbor.
During a visit to Canberra by Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, Australia offered up to A$19.5 million ($14 million) in education aid and said it would spend A$400,000 ($296,020) to help develop Vanuatu’s cyber policies and security, Reuters reports.
Maritime surveillance, police, and defense cooperation would underpin the security treaty, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement, but he gave no date to begin talks.
The visit comes amid an Australian drive to boost assistance to the Pacific and follows a similar visit to Canberra by the Solomon Islands prime minister, who secured Australia’s assistance to build undersea internet cables for his country—effectively ending a bid by Chinese telecoms firm Huawei to build the cables.
China has likewise become increasingly active in the South Pacific, providing infrastructure projects, aid, and funding for small, developing island nations.
China’s commitment of $1.8 billion to the region by June 2016 is dwarfed by Australia’s $7.7 billion contributions, according to research by Australian think tank, the Lowy Institute, but China’s investments have raised Australia’s hackles at the prospect of eroding its own long-time influence.
Cybersecurity has become a flashpoint, with Australia’s security agencies worried that hardware installed by Huawei could pose a data security risk.