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Asia Pacific security challenges – Goff speech

Hon Phil Goff

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Speech Notes

28 June 2002

Asia Pacific security challenges – Goff speech to Otago Foreign Policy School

Professor Phil Meade, Associate Professor Robert Patman overseas guests and members of the 37th Otago Foreign Policy School.

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you this evening.

When I accepted the invitation, I was of course not aware that the event would coincide with the 2002 general election campaign.

Much as I would like to exploit the opportunity created to bring foreign policy into the heart of the campaign, I strongly suspect that as in other elections, foreign policy will not be the focus of the campaign or a matter of great public controversy.

I believe that New Zealanders are generally very supportive of New Zealand’s direction in foreign affairs.

They want New Zealand to speak with its own voice.

Our strong support for a nuclear free New Zealand and Southern Hemisphere and for elimination of weapons of mass destruction has overwhelming public endorsement.

Our active participation in peacekeeping forces, currently in 13 countries but most prominently in East Timor, also has near unanimous public support.

While more controversial, our commitment to the campaign against terrorism and our involvement in Afghanistan also has the support of most New Zealanders.

New Zealanders appreciate that as a small nation we have a strong vested interest in the international rule of law, and that it makes sense to work actively to support organisations such as the United Nations, the WTO and the new International Criminal Court.

Bilaterally I believe there is broad approval that we work closely with the European Union and Scandinavia as like-minded countries on many social, political and environmental issues.

New Zealanders also generally accept that we should work closely with Australia and have welcomed a warmer and stronger relationship with the United States.

They do not expect however that our views should always coincide with those countries. There is a fiercely independent streak to the way we as a country think. New Zealanders also expect that notwithstanding our size, we should punch above our weight.

Our perspective as a nation has changed over time.

We no longer see ourselves as an isolated British outpost somehow misplaced at the bottom of the Pacific.

We see ourselves as a Pacific nation with key responsibilities in the South Pacific and with an increasingly important trading and political relationship with Asia.

We have become a more genuinely multicultural nation reflecting a Maori, Pacific and Asian as well as European heritage.

Our perspective on Asia-Pacific security challenges has also changed with time.

During the twentieth century, our thinking was predominantly dominated by perceived security threats from the North, first Tsarist and then Communist Russia, Japan, and China.

The threat from Japan’s expansionism and aggression in the 1930’s and 40s highlighted our vulnerability.

The fears this generated carried over into the Cold War era as we sought to protect ourselves against the perceived threat of the Soviet Union and Communist China.

By the last decade of the twentieth century, however, these concerns had receded, and the possibility of any direct threat to New Zealand’s security from another nation became increasingly difficult to identify.

We can celebrate the fact that for over half a century the world has avoided global war.

The same however cannot be said of regional and internal conflicts.

Nor can the current Asia-Pacific environment be seen as either stable or secure. The challenge of securing a peaceful and equitable world remains elusive.

In my comments tonight I want to discuss five areas which continue to pose a threat to stability and security –


weapons of mass destruction

instability in Pacific Island states

and more briefly

potential conflicts in North Asia, and

stresses within nation states in South East Asia, in particular Indonesia.

Of all potential security threats to New Zealand, since September 11 that of terrorism has been predominant.

Terrorism has been an ongoing phenomenon since the post-war era – Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Basque region, the Middle East and Chechnya are but a few examples.

The perpetrators of September 11 achieved a new benchmark in terrorism and an unprecedented psychological impact, striking at the world’s superpower in such a spectacular way.

The images of the World Trade Centre witnessed live on the television networks and repeatedly played back will remain always imprinted on our minds.

The event highlighted the vulnerability of modern society to such attacks.

The murder of 3000 human beings and willingness of the terrorist networks to employ chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction if access could be gained to them, took the threat of terrorism to new levels.

It demanded a strong response to eliminate groups such as Al Qaeda which posed a serious and intolerable threat.

The attack produced a rare display of unanimity in the United Nations with resolutions passed calling for a coordinated international response to the perpetrators of the attack.

A broad coalition of nations, promoted and spearheaded by the United States, but involving Russia, China, Pakistan, and the Islamic world, as well as Western Nations, has cooperated in a crack down on terrorism.

New Zealand’s involvement in this has been whole-hearted.

We are directly involved in Afghanistan in military, peacekeeping and development assistance capacities. We have acted upon Security Council resolutions to tighten legislative measures against funding, harbouring or otherwise assisting terrorist groups.

We have in this year’s budget allocated increased funding of $30 million over the next 3 years to boost our counter-terrorism efforts in a range of government agencies – customs, immigration, intelligence, police and defence.

These measures will bring about improvements in interdiction and security arrangements, intelligence gathering and information sharing, and a chemical and biological terrorism response capability.

Military action against Al Qaeda and their Taleban hosts in Afghanistan sparked some controversy. While the military action has been targeted, any such action inevitably and tragically brings some inadvertent casualties amongst civilian populations and friendly forces.

Yet the defeat of terrorist groups which operate beyond the rule of law must inevitably involve the use of force as one component.

Repeated resolutions by the United Nations against Al Qaeda and the Taleban had produced no response.

The rapid collapse of the Taleban indicated the lack of public support within Afghanistan for their regime.

Efforts by the international community have facilitated the restoration of legitimate authority in Afghanistan against considerable odds.

Much more remains to be done and continued cooperation and commitment from the international community is needed to ensure peace, stability and the rule of law is restored to Afghanistan.

The lesson of the post-Soviet era in Afghanistan is that the world abandons failed states to their fate at its own peril.

Less progress has been made in the other prerequisite to eliminating the threat of terrorism which is addressing its causes.

The conditions that give rise to terrorism are complex and need addressing on a number of fronts.

The most obvious current cause which gives rise to sympathy for terrorism is the ongoing failure to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.

For the Islamic world and beyond, the plight of the Palestinian people deprived of a homeland and living in squalor and under occupation has become a rallying call for action against Israel and its perceived supporters.

It has enabled regimes such as Saddam Hussein’s to win undeserved support and has threatened to destabilise moderate Arab States.

It has become a tool of recruitment into organisations for whom terror is a means to an end.

The need for resolution of the conflict in Palestine after 50 years is pressing. The integral player in finding a resolution is the United States which has enormous influence over Israel but also in other Middle Eastern states.

Its role in finding a solution is however compromised by strong Israeli influence in its domestic politics and consequently not being seen as an impartial mediator in the conflict.

Yet, with the support and engagement of other parties, it is the United States which is best able to lead both parties back into negotiation.

President Bush’s recent acceptance of a two state solution, minus the prerequisite of trying to determine who either state might decide democratically to be its leader, is a step forward; as is the Saudi’s offer to recognise and support legal and secure borders for Israel.

New Zealand’s position on the conflict has been even handed, supporting Israel’s right to security and the right of Palestinian people to their own country.

We have unequivocally condemned the suicide bombings, but also Israel’s excesses and settlement of territory that does not belong to it.

We have offered to play a role in any peacekeeping force that may follow peace talks, having experience with peacekeepers in the Sinai and in Israel over many years.

The second area I have identified as posing a threat to our and international security is the continuing existence of weapons of mass destruction.

The end of the Cold War has brought some progress in lessening the threat posed by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

We no longer live with the nightmare of global annihilation in a conflict between the US and the Soviet Union.

Some 30,000 nuclear warheads are still in existence.

We welcome the outcome of the Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and Russia, which will reduce their arsenals from around 8000 nuclear weapons each to between 1700 and 2200 each over 10 years.

We would have preferred that the treaty required the elimination rather than the setting aside of these weapons.

We have welcomed also the unequivocal undertakings in 2000 by the five official nuclear weapon states at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference to achieve the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

Offsetting this progress however has been the failure to bring into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; the spread of nuclear weapons to India, Pakistan and probably Israel; and the failure of countries such as Iraq and North Korea to disavow use of weapons of mass destruction and open their countries to inspection.

This year’s rise in tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and terrorist attacks brought home the reality that the outbreak of nuclear conflict remains a risk. While the last fortnight has seen each side stepping back a little from the brink following US visits to the region, the situation remains tense. India and Pakistan show few signs of resolving the issues which divide them and of breaking the cycle of crisis and temporary response.

War remains a real possibility if there were to be a fresh terrorist attack within India or a resurgence in infiltration across the Line of Control.

Should this occur, the lack of safeguards in place to prevent degeneration into nuclear war do not give cause for confidence.

India does not rule out invading Pakistan and Pakistan does not rule out first use of nuclear weapons.

On the worst scenario, 12 million could die immediately, millions later and large areas rendered uninhabitable for decades.

This risk highlights the need for countries like New Zealand and its New Agenda partners to continue to press the case for multilateral disarmament.

The third area which threatens stability – failures of economies, governance and the rule of law in the small states of the Pacific – poses risks of a different nature.

The focus of this problem is in Melanesia. Fiji has been destabilised by two coups overthrowing democratically elected governments.

Bougainville suffered the loss of 10,000 lives in a civil war which lasted a decade.

Papua New Guinea faces other problems of civil strife, ethnic conflict, a breakdown of law and order and uncertain discipline within its military forces. The Solomon Islands has suffered conflict between ethnic groups and ethnic cleansing, the collapse of law and order, economic bankruptcy and poor governance.

Vanuatu, with tensions caused by overpopulation and economic and governance failures, has avoided a collapse into violence, but risks the outbreak of similar problems to its neighbours.

Ethnic tensions, land ownership disputes, widening socio-economic disparities, population pressures and failures in governance are the common causes underlying what has occurred.

If effective and equitable solutions are not developed the alternative will be failed states left exposed to subversion by transnational crime, drug trafficking, people smuggling and further violence as a result of the increasing presence of small arms in the wrong hands.

New Zealand is not immune from the consequences of these outcomes.

Our commitment to working within the Pacific to help resolve these problems and our development assistance to the region is in our own interests as well as being part of our obligations to be a good international citizen and give humanitarian assistance.

Following the review and restructuring of New Zealand international development assistance, we have recommitted ourselves to the Pacific as the focus of our development activities.

Standing in the way of economic and social development is poor governance, corruption and a breakdown in law and order.

Addressing these problems is a prerequisite to progress on other fronts but also raises accusations of interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

That accusation was made vociferously by Speight supporters during the Fiji coup.

I make no apology for New Zealand’s stance in relation to that event.

It was the strength of international opposition to the coup, as Prime Minister Qarase commented at Chogm, that helped push Fiji back into democratic government.

The Biketawa Declaration, which confirms the role of the Pacific Forum in actively opposing breach by any member country of democratic and human rights standards, was a significant step forward.

New Zealand is also playing an important role in promoting good governance in the Solomon Islands, which will be the major focus of our development assistance there over the next three years.

A team of 10 New Zealand police officers will shortly depart for the Solomons, as the International Police Monitoring Team is phased out.

This team will mentor and support front-line Solomon Islands police, assist with developing community policing and help build up the Police Criminal Investigations Division.

It is hoped that this input will help both to instil professionalism into the RSIP and restore public confidence in it. Success will require the commitment and active engagement of the Solomon Islands Government to this end.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, New Zealand’s support for the Bougainville Peace Process has been a critical factor in ending the civil war there and putting in place a process to ensure on-going peace.

New Zealand retains a commitment of up to 20 personnel as part of the Peace Monitoring Group there.

I want finally to touch on the last two areas that pose a challenge to Asia Pacific Security.

The Korean peninsula has long been a focus of security concerns in North Asia with repercussions for the wider region.

The promising signs from the June 2000 Leaders’ Summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il sadly remain unrealised.

The North has proven unwilling to respond to practical steps of engagement put forward by the South and to open up significantly to the rest of the world.

The current stand-off between the US and North Korea has been a contributing factor, along with internal power structures within North Korea, and the regime’s fear that it will not be able to control or survive the process of opening up to the world.

What position a new South Korean administration next year will take on engagement with the North is not yet clear.

New Zealand last year established diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. It has contributed financially to the Korean Energy Development Organisation to lessen the risk of nuclear weapons development and has provided other limited assistance including food aid.

We remain of the view that engagement with rather than isolation of North Korea has better prospects for reducing tension but are realistic that progress is likely to be limited.

Relations across the Taiwan Straits have improved. Economic engagement between China and Taiwan has expanded rapidly.

Over a million Taiwanese now live in the Mainland to further their business activities. The level of rhetoric on both sides has become increasingly conciliatory in recent months with talk of the possible resumption of negotiations on the establishment of air, shipping and postal links.

But there has been no change in China’s bottom line: as long as Taiwan does not agree to the ‘one China’ principle, Beijing will not renounce its right to resort to force.

China’s determination to keep its relationship with the US in an even keel has contributed to stability across the Strait, but the potential remains for Taiwanese moves towards a more independent profile to disturb the delicate status quo in the short to medium term.

Finally in Southeast Asia, developments in its largest country, Indonesia, are particularly important.

Indonesia is a country of over 200 million people and the largest Islamic country in the world. It is in relative terms one of our closest neighbours.

Major conflict and instability in Indonesia would impact on the whole Asia-Pacific region.

Peace and progress there depends on the success of its economic reform programme and peaceful resolution of its internal conflicts.

Only modest progress has been made on each of those fronts. More impressive has been the progress in building democracy after 3 decades of autocratic rule. Indonesia deserves praise for instituting and maintaining a multi-party democracy and a relatively free media.

The independence of East Timor has removed the ‘pebble in the shoe’ of Indonesia, as former Foreign Minister Ali Alitas once put it.

As a long-time supporter of East Timorese independence it was with real satisfaction that I attended its independence celebrations.

President Megawati was there and well-received which is a positive factor for future relations between the two countries.

However for East Timor independence marks the beginning of its challenge not the end. It is a poor country and will have to strive hard, with international assistance, to avoid the problems which have overwhelmed so many of its Melanesian neighbours.

Elsewhere in Indonesia, its Government faces the problems of inter communal violence in areas like Sulawesi and the Malukus and separatist pressure in Aceh and West Papua.

Autonomy and benign governance from Jakarta offers the best hope to peacefully resolve the problems in the latter two provinces, but this could be sabotaged by elements in the TNI or by lack of commitment. In the former areas, removal of the Laskar Jihad and ensuring that police and military forces act in a neutral way between rival communities is essential if peace is to be restored.

In conclusion, a topic as broad as “Asia Pacific Security Challenges” requires a whole seminar to address, not a single speech.

I have tried to give a flavour of the challenges which I see confronting the region and in some cases the wider international community, and New Zealand’s response to these challenges.

There are considerable challenges to stability and security in the region. Set in the context of past tensions and conflict in the region, however, these challenges may seem less insurmountable. Resolving tensions is now helped by regional organisations like the Asean Regional Forum, at which the countries in the region regularly sit down together to address economic and security problems. It has made real progress as a confidence building exercise and has ahead of it the challenge of developing mechanisms to resolve problems and conflicts.

Within the Pacific, the Pacific Forum is also moving in this direction, as shown by its adoption of the Biketawa Declaration.

With regard to New Zealand’s contribution to this process, our disadvantage in international affairs, our smallness, is also our advantage.

We are not seen as a threat to any nation. We win respect by determining independently the position we adopt and respect for being a good international citizen. Kofi Annan offered us highest praise in describing New Zealand as “a model member of the United Nations.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and our NGO Community as well as Government can draw satisfaction from such a comment.

Thank you once again for your invitation tonight and I would welcome any questions or comments.

© Scoop Media

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