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Goff: NZ's Defence policy


Hon Phil Goff - Minister of Defence

6 March 2006

NZ's Defence policy and the factors that shape it

Speech to the visiting US Air Warfare College
US Embassy, Wellington

Welcome to New Zealand and thank you for the invitation to speak with you today. I also hope that you have the chance to get out and enjoy the hospitality that this country has to offer.

I have been asked to give an overview of New Zealand’s view of the world, focusing on how this shapes our international commitments and our defence policy.

New Zealand shares with the United States common values of democracy, a commitment to human rights and the rule of law. We are both part of a relatively small number of countries that have been consistent over the last century in the advocacy and practice of these principles.

We are a country of only four million people, relatively distant from the world’s trouble spots. However, size and geographic isolation have never led us to an isolationist view of world. We are part of an international community and we take seriously our responsibilities to it.

Our participation in the major conflicts of the twentieth century bears this out.
In the First World War, 18,000 New Zealander’s were killed and 60,000 were wounded. The combined figure represented more than five per cent of our total population at the time, and on a per capita basis was amongst the highest of any country.

It is little known that our bilateral defence cooperation began in 1917 when the US Army attached observers to the New Zealand Division on the Western Front as part of preparations for your country’s entry into the war. American troops remained attached to New Zealand units through 1918.

The Second World War also extracted a major toll on New Zealand. With a population of only 1.6 million people, less than many American cities at that time, New Zealand’s mobilisation peaked at 153,000 men and women in the armed services. This represented over half the male population aged between 18 and 45.

The Second World War also added considerable depth and breadth to the relationship between New Zealand and the United States.

US and New Zealand troops fought alongside each other in Europe and in the Pacific.

The Pacific campaigns saw the basing of large numbers of US troops, particularly from the Marines, in New Zealand. Some 1400 New Zealand women married US servicemen, strengthening our people to people links.

Since the Second World War, New Zealand soldiers have served alongside American soldiers in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and today in Afghanistan.

New Zealand has also over that time placed strong reliance on multilateralism. Multilateralism has its shortcomings, in particular having to rely on near consensus to act. Its advantage, however, is that firstly it provides a rules-based system, which is important to smaller countries. Secondly, at its best, it maximises the effectiveness of the international community by insuring common ownership of problems and solutions to resolving them.

Since December 2001, we have committed ourselves strongly to the campaign against terrorism and to Operation Enduring Freedom, deploying ground, naval, and air assets to Afghanistan and the Gulf region.

Three rotations of our special forces have served in Afghanistan, working alongside their US and other international counterparts in security operations

Our 120-strong Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan is now in its sixth rotation and was just the third established in Afghanistan.

The work of the SAS and the PRT is focussed on enhancing security and creating the space to enable Afghan and international reconstruction work to get traction. The scale of the economic, political and military challenges confronting Afghanistan means it is an area that will require international commitment for a considerable time.

As well as in Afghanistan, New Zealand Defence Force personnel in smaller numbers are contributing to operations in Solomon Islands, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Middle East, East Timor, Korea, and Sudan.

We had personnel in Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Cambodia.

We are not, however, a member of the coalition in Iraq.

We supported UN Security Council resolution 1441 demanding that Iraq disarm peacefully in accordance with previous resolutions going back to 1991.

We backed the work of UNMOVIC, including by sending 13 military personnel to support the weapons inspection teams.
We recognise that the UN Security Council must have the power to authorise the use of force as the ultimate sanction in ensuring that its resolutions are upheld.

With respect to Iraq, that point, in our opinion, had not been reached when hostilities began in early 2003. And we were concerned that the complexity of the problems in Iraq would not be readily resolved by a simple military solution.

We did, however, send a platoon of Army engineers once the formal conflict had ceased and the task of re-building Iraq had begun.

I now want to turn to our defence policy goals, and our assessment of our strategic environment. New Zealand is not at present threatened militarily by another country, but we live in a region that continues to face real security concerns.

Relations among the major powers are relatively stable. This offers hope that regional tensions – the Korean Peninsula, South Asia and the Taiwan Straits –can be managed without military conflict.

The United States plays a valuable leadership role in ensuring the continuing stability of the Asia Pacific region. Notwithstanding its current focus on the Middle East, we would encourage it not to overlook the importance of this region politically and economically.

Key current security concerns include terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the ready availability of military weapons, trans-national crime, natural disasters, and state fragility and failure in Pacific and beyond.

A priority task for us is to build a strong defence force aligned to meet these new security challenges.

When the present government came to power in 1999 we inherited a defence force that was facing mass obsolescence and was unsure of its primary purpose and function.

In 2002, the government approved the Defence Long-Term Development Plan and committed $3 billion over ten years to update and replace a range of obsolescent equipment.

Priority was to be given to ensuring that our servicemen and women were equipped and trained for combat.

We also had to maximise our strengths. This meant directing resources to those areas where we could make a real contribution to regional and global security.

As a small nation with limits on the resources it has available, we decided it was better to focus those resources on areas where we could achieve excellence rather than to spread them to broadly and thinly. That lies behind our decision not to continue our Air Combat Force, which had not been deployed in combat areas since World War II.
Since the release of the Defence Long-term Development Plan (LTDP) in 2002, Defence has progressed major re-equipment projects.

The purchase of new Light Armoured Vehicles (a Striker platform with a sophisticated gun turret) and new Pinzgauer Light Operational Vehicles, including Special Operations variants, has significantly enhanced the Army’s mobility; allowing it to deliver more firepower, more quickly, to an area of operations.

For the Air Force, the purchase and conversion of two B-757s and the life-extension of our C-130 Hercules fleet will significantly enhanced both our strategic and tactical airlift capabilities. We have also begun the mission systems upgrade of our P-3 Orion fleet. This will ensure that we have a sophisticated surveillance capacity out into the future.

And we are currently considering options for the replacement of our Vietnam-era Iroquois and Sioux helicopter fleets with medium and light utility helicopters. We are likely to purchase NH90s.

Under Project Protector, there has been major investment in the surveillance and support capabilities of the Navy.

A new multi-role vessel at present being fitted out will be able to transport a fully equipped Infantry Company directly into an area of operations. It will also significantly advance our ability to respond to a natural disaster in the region.

New offshore and inshore patrol vessels will enhance our maritime resource and border protection capabilities. The two 85m offshore patrol vessels will also have an important maritime counter-terrorism role.

Investment in new capabilities is being matched by investment in people and infrastructure.

Last year, the government committed itself to a further $4.6 billion spending programme over ten years to ensure New Zealand’s Defence Forces are able to meet the government’s policy requirements.

Known as the Defence Sustainability Initiative (DSI), priorities for the new funding will focus on increasing personnel levels, bringing new and upgraded equipment into service, and strengthening defence planning and management systems.

Finally, I would like to say something about relationships.

New Zealand places a premium on strong relationships, both in our region and further a field, including with the United States.

Our alliance with Australia is a uniquely close one. We share common regional security interests, and we work together to safeguard and promote those interests.

The Pacific is our immediate neighbourhood, so it is in New Zealand’s interest that people there are secure, healthy, prosperous, and able to enjoy the benefits of living in well-governed, functioning societies.

Preventing conflict and restoring peace has become an important focal point of our engagement in the Pacific.

New Zealand has played an important role in restoring stability to the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville and to East Timor. In the latter, we committed a battalion-sized force for three years.

More recently, in Solomon Islands our servicemen and women have played an important part in pulling that country back from the brink of civil war and anarchy.
The Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands, or RAMSI, is a model of regional cooperation and measured intervention in fragile states.

It sits very closely with Secretary of State Condoleza Rice's concept of transformational diplomacy, building and supporting democratic, governed states that can respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. This operationalises President Bush's freedom and democracy agenda.

Looking ahead, there remains a sense of vulnerability in the Pacific region, particularly in Melanesia, to a range of cumulative pressures, including population growth, governance failures, fragile economies and communal tensions. These pressures are frequently too big for many small Pacific states to handle.

It is vital, therefore, that we continue to provide leadership and support to shape a regional response to these challenges.

I began my comments today by noting that New Zealand and the United States share common ambitions centred on the promotion of democratic values, human rights and the rule law. Advancing these ambitions is an area where our two countries can and do engage and cooperate on the ground.

I have already noted the work we are doing together today in Afghanistan and the many other examples of cooperation on security issues dating back more than 100 years.

Given the complexity of today’s security environment there are likely to be no shortage of further opportunities for US and New Zealand forces to work with each other.

This year our Chief of Defence Force has hosted visits by the Pacific and Central Command Commanders, Admiral Bill Fallon and General John Abizaid. In discussions with both we celebrated the commonality of our views and commitments in so many areas.

But it is understandable that as sovereign and independent nations we sometimes disagree.
The nuclear issue is one such area. I appreciate that New Zealand's decision to be nuclear free is at odds with the US position.

New Zealand and New Zealanders are committed to this country remaining free of both nuclear weapons and nuclear power. However, I believe it serves neither of our interests to let this disagreement prevent cooperation between our two countries across the widest range fronts, including on security matters.

In conclusion, I have outlined briefly today how New Zealand sees its place in the world, our key international commitments, and our defence policy. I have also touched on the state of the bilateral relationship between New Zealand and United States. The relationship is wide-ranging from our work together in Antarctica, cooperation on non-proliferation under the PSI and G8 Global Partnership, a strong economic, scientific and educational partnership and enduring people to people links.

I look forward to working together to develop that relationship further so that we can better pursue objectives that we have in common.

The work currently under way to strengthen our defence forces will give us the capability to better contribute to our common security.

I thank the US Air Warfare College for coming to New Zealand. The relationships that you develop during your visit are an important aspect of building this mutual respect.

I wish you an enjoyable stay in New Zealand.

ENDS

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