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Misleading information on submarine 'detection'

25 March 2001 Media Statement

Misleading information on submarine 'detection'

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that information about submarine detection released by the Defence Force to the Sunday Star Times was incomplete and therefore misleading.

"Officials in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet with responsibility for security have advised me that of the 15 events noted in the 30-year period, eight are classed as confirmed, or positively identified," Helen Clark said.

"All eight were confirmed visually, which means they were on the surface and could hardly be described as acting covertly.

"Of the eight confirmed detections, five occurred beyond the South Pacific and at a considerable distance from New Zealand – in the South China Sea, the North-West Pacific and the North-East Pacific.

"Of the other three it transpires that two - the sightings of Soviet submarines in 1971 and 1982 in New Zealand waters - involved vessels on declared scientific voyages. Officials advise me these submarines were neither hostile nor operating covertly.

"The list prepared by the New Zealand Defence Force for the Sunday Star Times does not mention four other similar scientific expeditions in the period 1969-83. These involved declared submarines that also made port calls in the South Pacific.

"The eighth 'confirmed' detection was an Oberon class submarine from the United Kingdom, hardly a hostile vessel.

"The fact is that the South Pacific is not a region of high priority for submarine activity.

"Even if undeclared or hostile submarines did visit this region, that would be a rare occurrence and we have no confirmed sightings or records of such activity.

"Spurious arguments are currently being mounted by those who wish to have our air force maintain a capability to look for covert and hostile submarine activity which is simply not present in the South Pacific.

"Officials reviewing our maritime patrol needs concluded that New Zealand does not need to maintain arrangements that include an anti-submarine capability at this time. By maintaining an Orion fleet, however, we retain the ability to invest in such a capability in future if we need it.

"This government will invest in capabilities which are a priority and not in those which are not," Helen Clark said.

Attached: The NZDF force 'detection list' and the advice to the Prime Minister from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet


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