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French warships visit

26 January 2001

French warships visit

Kia ora,

as you may be aware, two French warships will visit Wellington from 12 to 17 February. They are the Jeanne d’Arc (helicopter carrier) and Georges Leygues (anti-submarine destroyer). They will deliver 800 French sailors to Wellington for ‘festive activities, a parade through the city and an official reception’ organised by Wellington City Council.

While the Wellington City Council may welcome the presence of the warships, peace people around Aotearoa do not for the following reasons:

1) France is a nuclear weapons state.

While the French government may have reassured the NZ government that these warships are not carrying nuclear weapons at this time, they are nevertheless nuclear capable and part of a nuclear navy. France’s nuclear arsenals include nuclear depth charges which would be dropped from helicopters in anti-submarine warfare.

Despite the growing pressure for nuclear disarmament from governments around the world, who are increasingly adding their voices to those of the people who have demanded an end to all nuclear weapons for more than fifty years, the French government is adding new nuclear weapons to its arsenal. Their defence ministry announced a $US 215 million contract for new medium range air-launched nuclear missiles at the end of last month.

And, of course, their insane pursuit of new and ‘better’ nuclear weapons has created an environmental hazard of the most toxic kind in the Pacific - the French government exploded 46 nuclear weapons in the atmosphere over Moruroa and Fangataufa; and 147 underground nuclear weapons ‘tests’.

While the visit of the warships of any nuclear weapons state may not be a practical breach of the NZ Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act (1987) it is clearly a breach of the spirit of the Act. How appropriate is it for the Council of ‘nuclear-free’ Wellington (and indeed the government of ‘nuclear-free’ Aotearoa) to be welcoming warships from a proliferating, unapologetic, nuclear weapons state ?

2) France is a military occupier in the Pacific.

France occupies our nearest neighbour in the Pacific, Kanaky (New Caledonia), as well as Te Ao Maohi (French Polynesia), and Wallis and Futuna with military garrisons and naval bases. These territories are considered (by the French) to be a part of France. In both Kanaky and Te Ao Maohi, peaceful protest against the military occupation and calls for independence have been met with extreme violence by armed French gendarmes and military personnel. France has a long record of gross human rights violations as a colonial power in the Pacific (and elsewhere), including torture, murder and imprisonment of independence activists in Kanaky and Te Ao Maohi .

Even the CIA (whose World Fact Book we like to consult to check we have our facts straight) under the listing for Kanaky, Te Ao Maohi and Wallis and Futuna states:

“Independence: none”

France has the second biggest military presence in the South Pacific after the US, and the French Pacific colonies are essential for them to retain that status.

The visit of the French warships highlights a strange double standard in NZ foreign policy. Phil Goff and other NZ government spokespersons speak often and loudly about “the restoration of democracy in Fiji”, and apply assorted sanctions against the people of Fiji (including banning some Fijians from entering this country). Strange how the democratic rights of the people of Kanaky and Te Ao Maohi don’t get a mention - and warships, the physical embodiment of French military occupation of parts of the Pacific, are welcomed. Does this indicate the NZ government’s support for French military and colonial activities in the Pacific, or indifference to the fate of the indigenous peoples of the French colonies ?

3) Warships as goodwill ambassadors ?

We’ve said it before (and no doubt will have to say it again) it is extremely bizarre that warship visits are portrayed in the mass media as some kind of proof of ‘goodwill’. Warships are the ocean going demonstration of military might and arrogant colonialism, the floating bits of the global war machine which currently consumes $3,591,324 every minute of every hour of every day.

*** There will be a meeting to discuss possible responses to the French warships visit, and an update on the situation in Kanaky from Susanna Ounei (Omomo Melen Pacific: Women from the colonies of the Pacific), in the PMA offices on Thursday, 8 February at 5-30pm. If you wish to contribute to that meeting, but are unable to attend, please send your comments to PMA by 12 noon on that day.

Peace Movement Aotearoa
the national networking peace group
PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand.
tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173,
Internet Peace Gateway

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