A Friend Indeed: New Zealand

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P3K Orion in Antarctica, January 2006

By Peko Setboonsarng, Research Intern, CSIS Southeast Asia Program

As anti-tax deficit hawks from the Tea-Party influenced Republican party tussle over office space on Capitol Hill, the United States is facing the reality that the bill for global security and all that accompanies it – from paying for personnel to equipment to intelligence – will need to be leveraged through strong contributions from friends.  While the United Kingdom rolls back defence spending and talks with France about combining defense capabilities to save money  – a friend in Asia, New Zealand– is going in the other direction defining its plans, outlining spending, and contributing to much needed transparency from Asia Pacific ministries of defense by engaging in a new effort – the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) – to create a practical regional security architecture.

It’s been a strong week for New Zealand when it comes to foreign policy and regional security issues. Before the Thursday’s signing of the Wellington Declaration by Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister McCully, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) released its Defence White Paper the first published in 13 years. The comprehensive review outlined the military’s plans for the next 25 years, champions the rule-based international order which it perceives to be under challenge, and predicts a much choppier quarter decade than the last.

The paper says military force will only be used in five cases; (1) direct threats to New Zealand, (2) threats to Australia, (3) collective support for Pacific Island Forum members, (4) as part of NZ’s contribution in the Five Party Defence Alliance (FPDA), and (5) United Nations sanctioned response in the Asia-Pacific. Presently, the NZDF will focus on the fragility of South Pacific, as instability would pose potential economic and reputational risks. The paper also emphasized strong and continuing partnership linkages with Australia and hinted at the strengthening of ties with the United States outlined in part in the Wellington Declaration.

Another area of interest is the re-organization of its budget, which earmarks $503.18 million for front line capabilities: new helicopters will be procured, ANZAC frigates will be upgraded, the number of personnel in the special-forces will be increased, and the air force’s capabilities in air transport and surveillance will be enhanced by replacing P-3 Orions and C-130 Hercules. The paper justified beefing up the military in order for New Zealand to make credible contributions to coalition operations in Asia, noting increasing tensions around the Korean peninsula, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The paper sings the same tune as the Wellington Declaration in U.S.-New Zealand security relations. In her speech in Canterbury, Secretary Clinton lauded the white paper and New Zealand’s security commitment. It is clear that this generation of Kiwi and American leadership is embracing ties among traditional allies– that the bilateral relationship is not limited to security, but will include trade and investment, people-to-people links, and alignment in tackling transnational challenges and protecting the global commons.


2 comments for “A Friend Indeed: New Zealand

  1. January 24, 2011 at 22:44

    It’s good to see that the US has a presence near our borders. I’m also glad that we are in a peaceful part of the world.

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