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WikiLeaks: Demarche on Tokelau and Swains Island

WikiLeaks cable: Demarche on Tokelau and Swains Island

This is one of the cables about New Zealand held by Wikileaks.


Classified By: DCM David J. Keegan, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: As instructed Reftel, PE Couns met with Tokelau Administrator David Payton to request that the GNZ publicly reaffirm that Tokelau does not/not have claim over any American Samoan island presently administered by the United States, including Olohega, or Swains Island. Payton confirmed that New Zealand agrees Tokelau does not have claim to the island and he promised GNZ would consider the request. He said that when Tokelau leader Koulouei O'Brien said a self-governing Tokelau could discuss ownership of Swains with the United States, he meant to draw attention to the benefits of self-government, not make a territorial claim. PE Couns said that even if that were the intent the remarks are unfortunately impeding Tokelau's efforts to encourage closer relations with American Samoa. Post recommends that Interior DAS David Cohen discuss American Samoa's position on this issue with GNZ officials during his April 30 visit to Wellington. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On April 17, PE Couns delivered reftel diplomatic note to David Payton, Tokelau Administrator at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). Payton said he would have his legal team look at our request, and anticipated that the lawyers would have no difficulty understanding our concerns. He stressed that Swain's identity is "finished business" to New Zealand, and the GNZ would stand by the treaty.

3. (SBU) Payton said that Tokelau's population of 1,500 could not possibly manage the burdens of self-government alone. As part of New Zealand's efforts to nudge Tokelau to self determination, GNZ officials have encouraged Tokelau officials to reach out to the world-wide Tokelauan community (who represent 90% of all Tokelauans) and ask for their support. The GNZ has also recommended Tokelau's leaders explain the benefits of self government to overseas Tokelauans, who will not be not allowed to participate in the referendum but will strongly influence the voters in Tokelau. O'Brien made his remarks in March while he and other Tokelau leaders were on such an outreach visit to New Zealand. O'Brien later told Payton he meant his comments to demonstrate to Tokelauans that one benefit of self government would be that the island could discuss its concerns directly with foreign officials rather than through the GNZ. O'Brien said that because Tokelau cannot do this now, it has lost the chance to get certain forms of economic assistance from the EU.

4. (C) PE Couns said that if this were part of Tokelau's effort to reach out to potential partners it was unfortunately having the opposite effect, as American Samoan officials have told USG officials they find O'Brien's comments troubling. One American Samoan official had discussed the comments and the draft constitution with the other two leaders, and found they agreed with American Samoa's position. Payton confirmed that the other leaders have been appalled by O'Brien's comments. He asked why the American Samoan Governor had not raised the Swains issue during his recent and successful trip to Tokelau. PE Couns suggested the Samoans had possibly not wanted to embarrass their hosts. Payton said that during the visit, both sides had reportedly discussed using Swain's as a starting point for commerce between American Samoa and Tokelau. He said that Tokelau's interest in Swains reflected a belief that the people on Swains are Tokelauan and therefore family. Tokelau does not want the island as its territory. PE Couns said it would be helpful for New Zealand to encourage Tokelau to make this explicit with American Samoan officials and others. She reminded Payton that increased cooperation in the Pacific Islands has been a cornerstone of the improving US-NZ relationship.

5. (C) Post will continue to follow up on reftel request, including by double tracking with the Americas desk and others at MFAT. We also believe it would be helpful if Insular Affairs DAS Cohen explained American Samoa's views on Swains when he meets with MFAT officials during his April 30 trip to Wellington.



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