Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Phil Goff Washington Speech

Phil Goff Speech

Recent Developments in the Asia Pacific Region and US/NZ Relations

Address delivered at the New Zealand Embassy, Washington
6pm, 13 September 2000

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here on my first visit to Washington as Foreign Minister. I would like this evening to share with you some thoughts:

 about our region;
 about the common interests that New Zealand and the United States have in that region;
 and about the strong relationship that exists between our two countries.

New Zealand and the United States have over history shared many causes. We have very similar interests, right across a broad range of issues. We are two countries at opposite ends of the Asia-Pacific - one of the smallest and one of the largest. And yet there are real affinities between us, rooted in strong historical ties and common values.

I would like tonight to take a look at developments in our own region and consider the changes that are taking place there. The evolving security situation in the Southwest Pacific and beyond presents new challenges for New Zealand - and Australia.

The United States has an interest in the way that the countries of the region respond, separately and collectively, to that new set of challenges. Our security cooperation is one side of a many-faceted relationship. I will return at the end of my speech to the theme of how our common values make that relationship one of value and mutual benefit.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

The evolving security situation in our region

First, let me turn to our region. The overall security situation in the Asia Pacific is in much better shape now than it has been at times in the past.

From our end of the Pacific, we see an improvement in the relationship between the great powers of the region. There is a strong US/Japan alliance. China and the US are engaging with each other, in spite of ups and downs in the relationship.

And there is a vigorous economic relationship between China and Japan. That sets the backdrop for the region’s security.

But there are some problems: the region is not entirely free of inter-state tension. There are wide disparities in development and prosperity; some states are facing significant pockets of internal unrest; and trans-national issues such as environmental degradation, illegal migration, and criminal activity pose new challenges.

Further efforts are required to reduce tension and resolve the underlying causes of tension in respect of the cross-Straits situation, inter-Korean relations, overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, and nuclear and missile proliferation in South Asia.

On the Korean Peninsula, encouraging recent progress has been made in defusing tension and initiating the beginnings of a more normal relationship between North and South Korea. We welcomed the DPRK into ARF membership last month and I initiated a process with Foreign Minister Paek that will lead in due course to the establishment of diplomatic relations between us.

But it would be premature to think that all is now well. There are significant questions to be addressed by North Korea in terms of missile proliferation and human rights. There is a long way to go.

More recently there has been increased instability in our own corner of the region. The Southwest Pacific, broadly defined, is no longer as peaceful as it was. Over recent years, a so-called “arc of instability” has formed, stretching from parts of Indonesia through Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. There have been numerous security incidents in all of those countries over the last two decades.

What went wrong? Some would argue that the traditional vision of south sea islands was never as portrayed in the tourist brochures. The region has for some time faced serious problems.

 We are seeing small economies of marginal viability, subjected to high population growth, urbanisation and associated problems of unemployment and crime;
 dislocations are occurring when traditional structures and values prove resistant to changes which cannot be halted;
 ethnic and tribal differences, and traditional or historical social divisions, provide an underlying tension. This is often exacerbated by land disputes, sometimes associated with transmigration. This is the new generation of conflicts that have emerged around the world since the end of the Cold War. These tensions have manifested themselves strongly in recent conflicts in the Solomon Islands and Fiji;
 good governance is an issue. There is a need to strengthen the principles and institutions that are best suited to promoting the nation-state. It is important that the institutions of government function effectively. Corruption is a major blot on the face of good governance, as are ineffectual law enforcement and the blurred constitutional role of the military. Democratic models put in place by colonial administrations have often failed to take root in traditional societies.
These are the dynamics which underlie much of the conflict and instability in the region. Events in East Timor, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and parts of Indonesia provide poignant illustrations.

In East Timor, the scale of destruction and violence with which militias resisted the pro-independence outcome of the referendum provoked an outraged response from the international community.

The Indonesian Government agreed to an international peacekeeping force being dispatched to East Timor, led by Australia and to which New Zealand contributed significantly - more than 1000 personnel.

Within a relatively short space of time the international community acted effectively to end the destruction in East Timor and headed off the genocide which may have occurred and would have threatened stability in the region.

The task is however not completed. The pro-integration militias continue to infiltrate East Timor from the West, over the last month killing a New Zealand and a Nepalese peacekeeper. Their control over refugee camps has stalled resettlement and repatriation, and their killing last week of 3 UNHCR personnel has caused the withdrawal of all international relief workers from West Timor. The international community has joined with New Zealand in demanding that Indonesia restore security in the camps and disarm and separate militia from the refugees.

Ethnic conflict continues in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. Each situation has its own characteristics. The international community’s response to one conflict may be unsuitable for another.

While military intervention was appropriate, warranted and successful in re-establishing stability and security in East Timor, the same mode of intervention does not automatically offer a solution in the two current areas of conflict in the Pacific.

New Zealand’s policy responses are shaped by the nature of the security incidents in our region and hopefully guided by an understanding of the root causes of those problems.

 We are prepared to help countries to resolve their own problems. We and Australia have assisted the PNG government in halting the bloody conflict which raged in Bougainville. And efforts by Australia and New Zealand in the Solomons have facilitated talks leading to a cease fire agreement. But intervention in East Timor may have led to an unrealistic expectation in some quarters that where conflict exists in our region, a solution to this through peacekeeping effort is always possible. It is not. It is extraordinarily difficult for outside countries to provide peacekeeping where there is no peace to keep and lack of support from local militant groups for negotiations for peace.
 We will also bring pressure to bear on countries to conduct their affairs in ways that are acceptable to the international community. New Zealand was a strong critic of the overthrow of the constitutionally elected government in Fiji. We have worked closely with Australia, international organisations and the Pacific Forum, insisting on the unacceptability of Mr Speight and his associates being involved in the interim government. We have cooperated with the United States and other countries to implement what we call “smart” sanctions, which stop individuals who had a part in the overthrow of the government from visiting our countries. We have asked the Interim Government to include the Peoples Coalition as part of the interim administration to achieve reconciliation. We are pushing for the holding of elections as soon as possible and adherence to a non-racist constitution.
 Solutions to the region’s problems do not lie simply in willingness to intervene in a peace keeping capacity after conflict has broken out. Restoring peace may be a necessary prerequisite to tackling the problems, but sustainable peace in turn relies on resolving the underlying causes of the conflict. Through our programme of Official Development Assistance, we focus on promoting economic development, institution-building and good governance, and on addressing the plight of the most disadvantaged sectors of the community;
 we support and encourage the development of regional institutions to develop the resilience of governments in the region.

New Zealand and the US have common interests in the region

I believe that New Zealand and the United States have an interest in cooperating together to address the security problems of our region.

For historical, economic, political and cultural reasons, as well as geographical ones, New Zealand is part of the Southwest Pacific. This region is a key focal point of our diplomacy.

The United States, too, has close ties with the region. There are the historical ties dating from US involvement in the Pacific theatre during the Second World War. This brought US troops not only into the theatre, but also to New Zealand itself.

That was an important element in the strong bonds that have developed between our two countries. New Zealand and US troops cooperated closely during the Second World War and both made the supreme sacrifice to end Japanese aggression. Today direct United States interest in the region continues through its territorial interests.

We both want a stable region. Political stability is one important element in ensuring strong political institutions. We want to see a region that shares our democratic traditions and the values that we place on basic freedoms and human rights.

Stability is also important for economic reasons. The Southwest Pacific is a region of fragile economic structures. The region needs collective strength to determine its own future.

A strong region will be better able to resist and deter predatory interests: the poachers of the region’s valuable fish stocks, the perpetrators of financial scams and other transnational criminal elements that have come to prey on the region.

Without stability, there is little prospect of economic prosperity and every prospect of the economies descending into a downward spiral of poverty and on-going dependence.

There is an expectation in the Southwest Pacific region and beyond that New Zealand and Australia should carry the burden for security responses and assistance. That is a responsibility we accept.

We are also committed to playing a role in maintaining stability in the wider Asia Pacific region. We are active participants in the multilateral security process – both in the Pacific Forum and in the ASEAN Regional Forum. And we are participants in the Five Power Defence Arrangements where we work closely with Australia, Britain, Malaysia and Singapore to maintain regional stability in Southeast Asia.

Even beyond our own region, New Zealand is committed to contributing to collective security efforts, including peacekeeping and peacemaking. We are prepared, as we have demonstrated, to deploy our defence forces to overseas theatres in support of our fundamental commitments under the United Nations Charter.

We believe that the use of force is but one element in a broader approach to international security. But there are times when a collective effort and the use of force are required to underpin multilateral responses to international security problems.

New Zealand and the US have a common ambition to act in support of the protection of democratic values, human rights and the rule of law. It is an area where our two countries can and do engage and cooperate on the ground.

In many instances where we decide to commit our New Zealand troops overseas, this will be in a UN operation supported also by the US or in a UN-mandated coalition force that includes the US. We recognise that a close relationship and the ability to inter-operate militarily are important to the success of such undertakings.

We value a close working relationship with US counterparts. We have cooperated together, with Australia, in East Timor. As well as committing defence resources to operations in the Asia-Pacific region, we have deployed New Zealand Defence Force personnel to operations far from our immediate geographical sphere of interest – in the Middle East, the Balkans and Africa.

Like the US defence establishment, our New Zealand forces are finding themselves stretched to respond to the calls that are made on them. But we are doing what we can to respond positively, where possible, and to bolster our capability to contribute better to such operations.

New Zealand/US bilateral relations

I have already outlined the common interests and common perspectives that New Zealand and the United States share in the Pacific region.

Cooperation between the two countries on most issues is natural.

 we have shared language, shared history, and shared experiences
 we have a similar culture and like values
 we share a “New World” sense of freedom and initiative
 we share a constitutional ambition of liberty, fairness and democracy
 we are both tolerant, multi-racial societies
 we have high levels of contact at the person- to - person level - tourism and business and to some extent family
All this adds up to

 a high degree of comfort in each other’s societies
 a low level of “foreign-ness” and
 a warmth at the person to person level stronger than in many other bilateral relationships

The Implications

The implication of this is that on most of the big issues, New Zealand and the United States have like commitments to:
 democracy
 the rule of law
 human rights and individual freedom
 freedom of speech and the press
 broadly open domestic and international economic policies
 national sovereignty and self determination
 concern for the environment
These shared objectives are the basis for much of our cooperation with the United States on political, economic and security issues.

Together with close personal and professional linkages, they provide the basis for the warm and cooperative relationship that we have with the United States.

Within the context of that relationship, we will however from time to time disagree. The nature of the respective roles we play in the world means that on occasions we will see things from a different perspective. Different viewpoints are an inevitable part and a strength of pluralistic and democratic societies.

New Zealand Defence and Foreign and Security Policy

New Zealand has never seen its small size as a reason not to commit itself as an active player in the international arena, and when necessary to help resolve global or regional conflict to be prepared to put the lives of its people at risk. It has equally not regarded its size as a reason to give up its right to having an independent viewpoint. New Zealanders as a people, once they have made up their minds, will be fiercely determined in upholding that viewpoint if they believe they are right.

Fifteen years ago, New Zealand and the United States had such a disagreement over the questions of entry to our ports of nuclear armed or propelled vessels. That disagreement remains unresolved. The United States maintains its position, New Zealand its legislation. There is a consensus in New Zealand public opinion that we should remain nuclear free and no government will change the legislation.

My view is simply that this is an area where we should agree to disagree, as good friends sometimes do. It serves neither of our interests to let this disagreement prevent the cooperation between the two countries on any other front.


More broadly, and having touched on the nuclear issue, this is probably a good opportunity to explain New Zealand’s position with regard to nuclear weapons which is to press for their total elimination by multilateral means. It has joined with like-minded countries in the New Agenda Coalition to put forward this agenda.

The Coalition which includes Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Ireland, Sweden and South Africa as well as New Zealand crosses traditional North-South and other divides.

Over the last few years, the momentum towards disarmament appeared stalled.

We were consequently very pleased with the outcome of the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

We welcome the agreement of the five nuclear weapons states to make an “unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their arsenals”. The removal of targeting of weapons, agreement to irreversible dismantling and the endorsement of the United Stations/Russian START process are all positive steps. What we want now to see is a clear timetable for the commitment which has been entered into.

We are also concerned that proposals for a national missile defence system do not retard or even unravel nuclear disarmament efforts.

The elimination of, rather than defence against, nuclear weapons is the only reliable way to ensuring they will not be used.

Defence Policy and Defence Capability

At the same time as New Zealand has pressed for disarmament, we have maintained our active commitment to regional and global, as well as our own, defence. Our involvement in East Timor and in 12 other peacekeeping missions around the world is clear evidence of that.

Since the new Government took over in Wellington we have had to address early decisions over defence acquisitions. We inherited defence forces which urgently required re-equipment. Processes were in place to purchase F-16s and to upgrade our maritime surveillance capability by re-equipping our P3 ORION aircraft. And at the same time our experience in Bosnia and in East Timor demonstrated that obsolete communications gear and armed personnel carriers put our troops on active service at risk and threatened to undermine the degree of excellence which our forces could otherwise provide through their professionalism and training. Our sealift and airlift capacities also needed upgrading. All of this was supposed to fit into the defence budget of a country the size of Oregon.

In the light of budget constraints, the Government urgently had to assess its defence priorities and did so in a defence policy framework announced in June. Some of the conclusions of that review warrant repeating here.

Our defence objectives are: to defend New Zealand; to meet our alliance responsibilities with our most important partner, Australia; to maintain security in the South Pacific; to play a role in the Asia Pacific region including our commitments under the Five Power Defence Arrangement; and to contribute to UN and other multilateral peace support and humanitarian operations.

With these objectives it was agreed that as we reshaped our defence forces:
 these forces must be properly equipped and trained for combat as well as peacekeeping
 they must be deployable
 they must be ready
 they must be able to work alongside other forces.

Against this background, and against the overall need to maintain fiscal discipline, at the time of a United States dollar that doesn’t know where to stop, it was not possible to go ahead with the existing plans for the F-16 aircraft or the planned upgrade to our maritime surveillance aircraft. That would have cut across the desperate need to upgrade our army equipment.

New Zealand is not decreasing its defence expenditure. Expenditure will be maintained, probably increased. But a clear set of priorities has been set. Last month we approved the expenditure of $735 million for defence equipment acquisition.

That included purchase of 105 state of the art light armoured vehicles to improve army mobility and 1853 tactical mobile communication equipment (radios). That represents major expenditure commitments and further decisions will soon be made on enhancing sea and air lift capacity.

Trade & Economic Policy

A very significant part of the NZ/US relationship is the economic component. New Zealand has welcomed the practical lead that the United States has shown as an open market in the international economy.

The United States, like New Zealand, has retained an open economy through all the economic difficulties of the last decade (especially the Asian financial crisis).

And it has shown the way with its own economic successes.

The United States Administration has also been at the forefront of efforts to carry forward the agenda for opening up the world economy. New Zealand has worked closely with the United States on this.

We were both pleased with the outcome of the APEC meetings in New Zealand last year.

And we were disappointed that the WTO meeting in Seattle did not bear fruit.

New Zealand remains committed to opening up the world economy to our exports and to controlling the distortions of subsidised competition in our key markets. New Zealand and the United States are allies in this - even if the United States remains a highly protected market in some sectors.

New Zealand also shares the United State’s views on the importance of mutually supportive trade and environment agendas at the multilateral level.

And we want to see the trading system move in a way that promotes respect for core labour standards.

So we will continue to want to work closely with the United States in APEC, in the
WTO and bilaterally.

At the same time we will be looking to the United States for leadership on international trade.

In the WTO we need a continuation of a solid commitment from the United States to move forward, not just on tariffs and quotas but also on export subsidies and domestic subsidies for agriculture.

We would like to see the United States embrace the concept of a free trade agreement with New Zealand and like minded countries (Singapore, Australia, Chile).

And we will look to the United States to resist protectionist pressures from within - such as led to last year’s inappropriate safeguard action against New Zealand lamb.

The United States will remain for New Zealand a crucial market for our exports and a crucial source of investment and technical know-how.

In conclusion, I have this evening touched upon the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region and in particular the problems which have emerged in the South-West Pacific.

Restoring stability and security within the region and addressing the underlying difficulties necessary to secure sustainable peace will require considerable commitment and effort.

New Zealand together with Australia accepts its responsibilities in the region. We look to the United States to work as closely as possible with us to secure our shared objectives for the region.

In regard to our broader bilateral relations, I appreciate the cooperation I have received from the State Department in the short time I have been Minister. The relationship has been a close one, as befits two nations which have so much in common.

Where we have different perspectives, they are expressed honestly and within the context of good overall relations.

New Zealand has an international outlook. It has long emphasised the importance of strong multilateral organisations which set firm and fair rules for political and economic relationships between nations. It has shown its commitment to regional and global security, through peacekeeping, through maintaining defence capability and through multilateral initiatives such as disarmament and trade liberalisation.

Thank you for your interest in being here tonight and I look forward to your questions.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.