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Cablegate: New Zealand Accepts U.S. Proposal On Defense

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWL #0066/01 0562129
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 252129Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5093
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 5116
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0192
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0321
RUEHBN/AMCONSUL MELBOURNE PRIORITY 0123
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY PRIORITY 0650
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000066

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

PACOM PASS FPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/26/2023
TAGS: MARR MOPS PREL US NZ
SUBJECT: NEW ZEALAND ACCEPTS U.S. PROPOSAL ON DEFENSE
ENGAGEMENT

Classified By: Embassy Wellington Ambassador William McCormick,
reasons 1.4 (a), (b) and (d(

1. (C/N) SUMMARY. DCM contacted MFAT to express once again
our concern at New Zealand's continuing delay in formally
accepted the proposed U.S. streamlining of our mil-mil
relationship. On February 21, MFAT responded with a non-paper
formally welcoming the U.S. proposal, and promising that NZ
Ambassador Ferguson would call on DASD James Clad shortly to
provide additional detail. The New Zealand response
emphasized that it is committed to avoiding publicity and it
remains concerned that the high "ops tempo" of its military
may make it difficult for them to expand their activities.
Clearly NZ domestic political sensitivities could make it
increasingly difficult to consider any high-profile bilateral
activities; this limitation could actually help give both
sides the space to build patterns of operational cooperation
out of public and political view. END SUMMARY


U.S. Discomfort at NZ Delay
---------------------------

2. (C/N) On February 20, I spoke to Deputy Secretary John
MacArthur of New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
Trade (MFAT) about the importance the U.S. side attaches to
receiving GNZ acceptance of the change in our mil-mil
relationship we first proposed in October, 2007. It has
become clear that the problem is no longer, to the extent it
ever was, getting a paper through the PM's in-box. John
MacArthur referred repeatedly to the need to complete "the
process" of developing New Zealand's response. I noted with
John and later with Carl Worker, MFAT Americas Division
Director, that U.S. internal discussions in preparation for
the AUSMIN had raised to senior levels awareness of New
Zealand's continued non-response. I suggested that this
risked tarnishing what should be a real positive for the
relationship. They both acknowledged this point with some
discomfort. Clearly they would have liked to see things move
more quickly. I made it clear that now is the time to provide
an answer and dispel any concerns a
t senior levels of the USG. They promised to do what they
could to provide a response before the AUSMIN.

3. (C/N) DCM was called back to MFAT Thursday afternoon,
February 21, to meet with John MacArthur and Carl Worker and
receive the following response to the paper DASD James Clad
presented to the New Zealand Embassy on October 25, 2007. DCM
was told that this response had been cleared with MFAT CEO
Simon Murdoch, who is currently in Canberra, and therefore
represents an official response.

o Ambassador Roy Ferguson has been back in Wellington for
consultations during the last week and will be conveying New
Zealand's response to the US advice of the outcome of its
"internal review of defense and security policy with New
Zealand" on return to Washington next week. In response to
the US request for guidance ahead of the AUSMIN meeting this
weekend, we are pleased to convey the key points of the
response that the Ambassador will outline in Washington in
more detail.

o In the context of the major improvement that has taken
place in the bilateral relationship through the joint efforts
of both sides, and as a further contribution to that effort,
New Zealand welcomes that such a review was undertaken and
that the outcome has been a positive US decision to introduce
additional flexibilities into the operation of its waiver
system applying to defence cooperation with New Zealand with
a view to encouraging and facilitating scope for new
cooperation initiatives in a range of multilateral areas to
mutual benefit.

o We understand that this has been undertaken and remains
within the existing overall framework set by relevant US
policy guidelines.

o New Zealand's welcome of the new flexibilities and
potential opportunities also is framed within the current
realities of the very high operating tempo of our defence
forces and the contingencies within our immediate region for
which we need to remain prepared.

o We share the US assessment that there is no requirement for
the advice of the outcome of the US review to enter the
public domain. Our own broad public comment has been confined
to recent speeches by the Minister of Trade and Defence
(Speech to Christchurch/Seattle Sister City Association,
Seattle, 7 November 2007) and the Secretary of Defence
(Speech to 4th Annual Armistice Day Symposium, Auckland, 9
November 2007).

(NOTE: DCM has forwarded to EAP/OSD and OSD/ISA Powers
relevant excerpts of both speeches. END NOTE.)

o In the event that public comment at any stage nevertheless
were required, we have taken note of the US defensive talking
points and would expect to consult closely at that time on
the shape of any public comment.

21 February 2008

4. (C/N) As John MacArthur summarized this paper, it comes
down to three points.
-- New Zealand agrees to and welcomes the U.S. proposal and
is eager to work within it.
-- New Zealand is eager to avoid any publicity about this new
approach, will only say anything under "extreme duress," and
will coordinate closely with the U.S. side before saying
anything.
-- New Zealand is very conscious that its forces are
stretched thin and does not want to mislead the U.S. about
its ability to undertake new missions.

5. (C/N) DCM thanked MacArthur and Worker for their efforts
to secure this response. He noted that the extended delay in
receiving a response could only make those on the U.S. side
wonder what lay behind the delay. Each of them said privately
in the course of the day how frustrated they had been by the
delays in securing consensus for this response. It was clear
that even saying that much was sufficiently sensitive that
neither wanted to say it in front of the other.

6. (C/N) DCM assured both MFAT officials that we completely
shared their interest in avoiding publicity. On the issue of
ops tempo, He suggested that one outcome of this new approach
would be cooperation in training and exercises that would
actually assist NZDF in improving its capabilities with less
expenditure of time and resources. Without anticipating too
much the specific outcomes of this new approach, we all
agreed that the NZ Navy might benefit from USN experience in
bringing its new multi-role vessel the Canterbury up to full
capability.

The Political Atmosphere
------------------------

7. (C/N) In a side conversation, John MacArthur noted that
those working on this response were particularly conscious
that both sides are moving into a political year, and it
would be best to focus on improving cooperation in areas
which remained below the level of political visibility. DCM
agreed, observing that we had found Simon Murdoch's summary
to A/S Hill at the Partnership Forum in September to be very
thoughtful and persuasive.

8. (C/N) It remains clear though unstated that negotiating
this response to our proposal was not as easy as we had
thought it might be. Clearly there were those who were
hesitant, either for political or operational reasons, and
needed to be brought along. With that in mind, it will be
important that we find ways to demonstrate that this new
arrangement is working, because that will help those within
the New Zealand government who want to improve relations with
us and who want to cooperate operationally with us to the
benefit of both sides.
MCCORMICK

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