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Nukes to cyber war – NZ security in focus

Nukes to cyber war – NZ security in focus

North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, potential terror threats, and the security implications of climate change are among emerging issues relevant to New Zealand and the Pacific under discussion at a conference at Massey University this week.

Local and international experts will present on bio-security, drug-trafficking, cyber security and trade, the impact of a new government on policy, and roles of China and the United States in regional security and other hot topics during the April 5-6 conference organised by Massey’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies.

New government impact on policy?

Centre director and conference chair, Professor Rouben Azizian, says the timing of the conference is significant taking place a few months after a change of government. “Will this change lead to significant shifts in the country’s security policy and legislation or in its international security priorities? How will the new Government’s emphasis on climate change, ‘Pacific reset’ and socio-economic problems impact New Zealand’s national security and foreign policy?” are, he says, crucial questions for the conference.

“Will the new priorities side-line previous security and defence commitments? Has the Russia spy scandal damaged our relations with traditional security partners or confirmed our autonomous foreign policy reputation?” asks Professor Azizian. “The conference discussions should shed some light and hopefully provide some answers to these challenging issues.”

A speech by Justice Minister Andrew Little, who is responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), will focus on the tension between the need for public confidence in our security agencies through effective public engagement, and “the fact that the agencies need to operate out of public view.”

“The conference offers a great opportunity to front up and contribute to discussion of current security issues alongside recognised specialists in the field,” Mr Little says.

Terror close to home?

Massey terrorism expert Dr John Battersby will discuss challenges to what he sees as a New Zealand assumption that our small and size and distance from the rest of the world has meant we have been safe – and continue to be safe – from the impact of terrorism.

“Our inability to legislate effectively against terrorism has meant that many instances of threatened or actual violence stemming from political motivations here have not been recognised as terrorism. We’ve tended to forget instances of might-be terrorism, and also have tended to forgive it. As a result, New Zealanders often think we have never experienced terrorism and look overseas for the wisdom on countering terrorism now that concerns about radicalisation are surfacing here,” he says.

“While we should definitely not ignore overseas developments, and our out-dated legislation needs to be aligned with global developments – our own past experience provides ample lessons for us to better assess our risk of terrorism.”

China’s growing influence

Asia security expert Dr Marc Lanteigne, also from the centre, will present on the recent changes to the structure of the People's Liberation Army, as well as emerging security challenges the Chinese military will be facing in the coming years, such as maritime strategy (East and South China Seas), the Taiwan question, and the Belt and Road (a massive transportation, energy and infrastructure project linking China with 70 countries across multiple continents).

International guest speakers include:
James Clad (American Foreign Policy Council): United States and regional security
Dr Scott Hauger (Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, USA): Security implications of climate change
Andie Fong Toy (Former Deputy Secretary General Pacific Islands Forum): Security Challenges in the Pacific Region – what can NZ do?
Dr Bryson Payne (University of North Georgia, USA): the role of cyber security in national security.
Other speakers include Josie Pagani, from the Council for International Development, on humanitarian challenges; Roger Smith, from the Ministry for Primary Industries, on bio-security; Dr Vangelis Vitalis, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on trade and security; Aliya Danzeisen, from the Women’s Organisation of the Waikato Muslim Association, on suspect communities; the Hon Mark Mitchell, National Party spokesman for Defence, Disarmament and Justice, on New Zealand security and defence challenges and priorities; and Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Massey’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, on New Zealand's demographic and immigration trends, and implications for national security.

On Friday, attendees from diverse government, business, academic and community groups will participate in workshops on New Zealand’s security capabilities, international networks and reputation.

Professor Azizian says the conference agenda is broad, “but its focus will be narrow, as we’ll attempt to understand and assess the implications of various international security challenges for New Zealand.”

“The increasingly complex international security environment requires “more sophisticated and integrated responses to evolving threats, which can’t be achieved without a strategic security thinking and inclusive national participation.”

This is the second conference on national security organised the centre, with support from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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