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Defence and New Zealand foreign policy

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

1 August 2005

Speech Notes

Defence and New Zealand foreign policy

Address to the Australian Defence College visit
to the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies,
Victoria University, Wellington,
9.15am, 1 August

Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today. My comments focus on how New Zealand sees its place in the world, our foreign policy objectives, some key issues of concern in the international arena, and how New Zealand’s defence policy fits in to our response to these.

New Zealand is a small country of around four million people. We don’t have any illusions about our ability to impose our will on any other country nor do we pose a threat to any other country. Our ability to influence rests on our ability to persuade others of the merits of our arguments.

We see ourselves as a sovereign country interdependent with others but voicing an independent viewpoint rather than simply reflecting another nation’s position.
We promote the role of multilateral institutions, including the United Nations and the World Trading Organisation, to support rules-based systems governing conduct between nations.

We are a liberal democracy that follows and promotes commitment to democratic procedures, the rule of law and respect for human rights. We believe in being a good international citizen, and seek to demonstrate that through commitment to peace keeping, development assistance, non-proliferation and disarmament initiatives, and support for sustainable development and environmental policies.

Peacekeeping is an important focus of our activities, and we currently make some contribution in over a dozen countries. We sustain military forces as combat ready, and are prepared to commit those forces to combat where there is no other alternative to ensuring peace and security, such as in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

We are a multi-cultural country, drawing our heritage from our indigenous Maori people, from Europe, from the Pacific and increasingly from Asia. We have the potential to be a bridge between those cultures in the world

We see ourselves as a Pacific nation working closely with Australia and other Pacific countries, and developing an increasingly important relationship with Asia. We work to retain our traditional links with Europe and North America and to build new links with regions such as Latin America.

New Zealand objective is a stable, secure and prosperous world within which we can promote our own security and advance our interests and values as a nation.

Our economic goal is to promote sustainable growth and free and fair trade. New Zealand opposes tariff and other barriers to trade and subsidization of production, particularly of agricultural products by the developed world.

Our environmental goals focus on remedying global warming, pollution, and unsustainable exploitation of resources such as fishing.

We seek practical ways to advance human rights, good governance, democracy and the rule of law. These are critical both to preserving peace and promoting development.

We are committed to conflict prevention and peaceful and just solution of international disputes.

We place emphasis on promoting elimination of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear, as an essential requirement of a safe future.

We support peacekeeping and regional and international security measures, including the campaign against terrorism.

We provide support to developing countries, with an emphasis on eliminating poverty.

New Zealand’s strategic thinking is no longer dominated as it was through the 20th Century by countries identified as posing a risk of aggression. Currently there is no specific country that we see as posing a direct short or medium threat to our sovereignty or well-being. Our focus today is on a number of other security concerns, and international terrorism, post September 11, is prime amongst these.

September 11 was a watershed in demonstrating both the willingness and ability of an international terrorist group to engage in the mass murder of 3000 civilians to promote their cause. It indicated that such groups have no bottom line to the action they are prepared to take, including, should they gain access to them, use of weapons of mass destruction.

While New Zealand may not be a primary target of terrorist attacks, New Zealanders were killed on September 11, and since then in the Bali and London bombings.

Because of the need to confront terrorism directly and those who hosted Al Qaeda, New Zealand has been a strong supporter of Operation Enduring Freedom. We have contributed air and naval support in the Gulf and our Special Air Service is now in its third rotation in Afghanistan. We have around 180 defence force personnel in Afghanistan and operate a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamian. We participate in police and defence force training, the ISAF and development assistance.

We were not, however, a member of the coalition in Iraq. We did not make a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda and we were involved in other methods for determining whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. We did not regard Iraq as a last resort situation, requiring invasion. We have provided development assistance to Iraq and for a year defence force engineers working on reconstruction.

Counter-terrorism has been pursued as a whole of government exercise. We contribute through the sharing of intelligence. We have strengthened legislation cracking down on terrorist organizations and funding and strengthened border control and transport security. We have worked multilaterally, regionally and bilaterally to enhance counter-terrorist cooperation.

We also believe that concerted and ongoing efforts are needed to address the conditions that foster terrorism. These include addressing disparities between rich and poor nations, and the need to resolve conflict between Israel and Palestinians. We support efforts to combat religious extremism such as promoting inter-faith dialogue.

Conflict and instability in the Pacific has become an important focal point for New Zealand engagement. Population pressures, land disputes, ethnic tensions, failing economies, corruption and loss of good governance and the rule of law are common factors in growing instability in Melanesia.

The Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu have all been affected by such instability.

If states fail in the region, this impacts directly on the well being of the people of those states and indirectly on the region. The vacuum of authority that results encourages trans-national crime, including the smuggling of weapons, people and drugs.

New Zealand has been heavily involved in the region as part of the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville, peacekeeping in East Timor, and engagement with Fiji after the coup through the Pacific Forum and the Commonwealth. We have played and continue to play an active role in the successful Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands.

Potential regional conflicts in Asia pose risks that would impact both regionally and internationally.

On the Korean peninsula, the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea and the threat of nuclearisation of the region is a key concern. New Zealand supports the Six Party talks currently being held as the best mechanism to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions and come back under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Cross-straits tensions remain between Taiwan and China and could erupt if Taiwan takes further steps towards declaring its independence from China. New Zealand has pressed China to pursue its reunification goals peacefully and through dialogue, and has pressed Taiwan not to take unnecessarily provocative actions.

The tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and terrorism, combined with the possession by each country of nuclear weapons is a serious risk factor in South Asia. We welcome the progress both countries have made in improving their relationship, but much more remains to be done to achieve sustainable peace in Kashmir and to reverse the build up of nuclear weapons.

We are active in organisations such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and hope that it can contribute to peace and security through confidence building, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution. APEC, and the new East Asia Summit in which New Zealand will be a participant, are other paths through which we can pursue these objectives.

The threat posed by weapons of mass destruction needs to be addressed more effectively.

The end of the Cold War has in part diminished this threat. We welcome steps taken by Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles from around 8000 to under 2000.

However the proliferation of countries with access to such weapons and the growing danger of weapons – nuclear, chemical or biological – falling into the hands of terrorist groups mean that there is no scope for complacency.

We work multilaterally to promote non-proliferation and disarmament, within the UN and through other initiatives such as the Proliferation Security Initiative and the G8 Global partnership.

At a time when proliferation is of such concern, we regret that this year’s Non-Proliferation Review Conference failed to make progress either towards non-proliferation or disarmament, the fourth time out of seven such conferences since 1970 that this has happened.

New Zealand’s defence policies work in tandem with our foreign policy objectives.

Our defence objectives are:

- To defend New Zealand and to protect our people, land, territorial waters, Exclusive Economic zone, natural resources and critical infrastructure;

- To meet our alliance commitments to Australia, our most importance defence partner, by maintaining a close defence partnership in pursuit of common maintenance of security in the South Pacific, and to provide assistance to our Pacific neighbours;

- To play an appropriate role in the maintenance of security in the Asia-Pacific region including meeting our obligations as a member of the Five Power Defence Agreement; and,

- To contribute to global security and peacekeeping through participation in the full range of UN and other multilateral peace support and humanitarian relief operations.

The common elements between foreign and defence policy are clear: the protection of New Zealand, the maintenance of bilateral and regional relationships, a commitment to multilateralism, and the promotion of world peace and development with a particular focus on our own region.

It is necessary to have a credible defence capability to underpin an effective foreign policy. New Zealand released a Government Defence Statement in May 2001. This statement set out a reconfigured New Zealand Defence Force designed to be sustainable and affordable over the long term.

It established a Joint Force Operational Headquarters. It announced plans for a modernised army with expenditure priorities on acquisition of new armoured vehicles, tactical communications and light operational vehicles.

It set out proposals for a practical navy fleet, including a new multi-role vessel and patrol vessels.

It established priorities for a refocused and updated airforce. This involves upgrading the Orion surveillance fleet, and our C-130s, the replacement of our Iroquois helicopters with NH-90s, the purchase of two B757 transport places and the disbanding of the air combat force.

New Zealand has opted to narrow the spread of its defence activities and to focus on achieving excellence and priority areas.

In 2001, total capital investment was increased by more than $2 billion over 10 years in a long-term development plan. In this year’s budget, the government has committed itself to a further $4.6 billion spending programme over 10 years to ensure New Zealand’s defence forces can sustain a higher level of capability including a more than 20 per cent increase in personnel numbers.

In conclusion, I have outlined briefly today how New Zealand sees its place in the world, our key objectives in foreign policy and our major issues of concern internationally and touched on how our defence policy relates to these issues.

I thank the Australian Defence College to New Zealand and participants here from many parts of the world for your visit. The relationships that you build up on your course are a critical part of building cooperation and understanding between countries, and securing a better future for the world.

I wish you an enjoyable and fruitful stay in New Zealand.


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